Not willing to take any risk of food contamination or any other foul play, Asian champion Bajrang Punia has decided to “not stay” at the Sports Authority of India centre, Bhalgarh and shifted to his home in Sonipat from where he travels daily to the national camp.
“My decision is not entirely from the past events but those things did play a role,” Punia told Scroll.in. “My home is just 15 kilometres from the SAI centre so I can travel easily. I can trust the food I eat at home and be more carefree.”
The Bhalgarh centre was in news two months before the 2016 Rio Olympics after wrestler Narsingh Yadav was tested positive for a banned substance. He later alleged that his food and water were spiked and filed a police complaint. The case is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the next hearing is on March 29 in the Delhi High Court.
Punia, part of the national camp in the 65 kg category, stayed in a three-room quarter at the centre but decided to leave it after returning from the Dan Kolov wrestling tournament at the beginning of this month.
“The national camp always takes place there so it is good to stay at the camp. I just want to be cautious as it’s very important time. One mistake and my career will be finished,” said the 24-year-old who is currently wrestling at the Shaheedi Diwas wrestling tournament in Panipat.
The world championships silver-medallist has had an spectacular 2018 season in which he won gold medals at Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and three United World Wrestling ranking tournaments to rise to the top rank in the 65 kg category in the world. He finished the season by becoming the first Indian wrestler to win two medal at the World Championships.
He remained undefeated in Pro Wrestling League in January and then repeated the same result in the German Wrestling League. He is now world’s second best wrestler in his category having won the gold medal at the Dan Kolov tournament.
Punia, who also has qualified for the Asian Championships scheduled to be held in China from April 21-28, insists he definitely won’t be staying at the centre till the 2020 Olympics. “The risk is there. Nothing has happened now but it was a gut feeling that I should move out till the Olympics. It’s not a long-term plan. I hope no wrestlers has any bad day there,” he said.