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Asian Games: Inconsolable Sarita Devi refuses bronze medal, faces ban

A huge controversy has broken out at the Asian Games after India's Sarita Devi returned her bronze medal, protesting against her controversial loss to a South Korean, inviting a possible suspension for defiance

Incheon: Distraught after losing her controversial semifinal bout, Indian boxer L Sarita Devi today stunned officials and spectators by refusing to accept the bronze medal, which is now in the custody of organisers.

The boxer is now facing an AIBA probe for returning her bronze medal during the podium ceremony with the world governing body's supervisor describing her act as "regretful". 

Sarita, who was declared a loser despite dominating the 60kg semifinal bout against home favourite Jina Park, was inconsolable on the podium on Wednesday and was crying bitterly as she stunned the officials and spectators by refusing to accept the bronze medal, which is now in the custody of organisers.

Also Read: Asian Games: I wasted two years of my life, says Sarita Devi

Sarita Devi
Sarita Devi. Pic/ AFP

The boxer was in disbelief yesterday when she lost to Park, who ended up as the silver-medallist. Sarita was clearly
the better of the two pugilists but the judges thought otherwise.

Left in the lurch by the accompanying IOA officials, she managed to collect USD 500, including with the help of a
journalist and Mary Kom's husband, to lodge an appeal against the verdict but lost.

The former Asian and world champion then left the ceremony. Park, visibly rattled by the turn of events, left the medal on the podium and made her exit. 

A sobbing Sarita later told reporters that she had to do what she did at the medal ceremony to continue with her boxing career or else it would have stayed in her mind.

"It's not that I did not want to accept the medal. I accepted it and then gave it back to the Koreans. I had to do
this to continue with my boxing career or the memory of this incident would have stayed on in my mind. I would now go back and hug my infant child," she said.

She was ready to accept the consequences of her actions but also accused the Indian officialdom of being uncaring in
the whole episode. 

"I am prepared for any consequences. Not one Indian official came to us and consoled or even spoke to us."

Hours after her apparent defiance, the AIBA termed her act as regrettable and initiated a disciplinary action process
"AIBA has already proceeded its Disciplinary Action Process to review this case, and the decision will be made
immediately after the Asian Games," AIBA said in a statement.

AIBA in its statement said that its supervisor and Technical Delegate David B Francis has submitted a report to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) concerning the case. 

"The whole incident looked like a well planned scenario by her and her team, and it is regretful to watch a boxer
refuse the medal regardless of what happened in the competition," Francis wrote.

"In this regard, as the Technical Delegate, I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete
in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic
Movement," added Francis.

The report further added that while protesting, the Indian did not follow the AIBA Technical Rules and protested
against the judges' decisions, though the Rules only allow a protest against the Referee's Decision.

Meanwhile back home, three Union ministers came out in support of Sarita as sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal sought a report from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on the issue.

"We have sought a report from IOA on Sarita's case. Let them give a detailed report and we will take further steps,"
Sonowal told reporters in New Delhi. 

However one of the prominent politicians of north-east and MoS (Home) Kiran Rijiju didn't mince words when he said
that "Indian officials should have been more pro-active in lodging a protest to the Asian Games Organizing Committee, 
which might have made a difference."

"We are all sad as we all know that she won the bout," Rijiju said.

Former Army chief and MoS (North East Region Affairs) V K Singh said that boxing's scoring and point system has been mired in controversy for a long time now.

"We have seen the refereeing and judging in boxing has always been questioned. We have seen that Cuban boxers have protested in the Olympics. Our delegation there should have complained at the right time," said Singh.

However, chef-de-mission Adile Sumariwala didn't support Sarita's behaviour as he felt that "AIBA won't take her behaviour very kindly".

Some of Sarita's Indian teammates not happy with her medal refusal

Incheon: Indian boxer Sarita Devi's emotional refusal to wear the bronze medal at the Asian Games podium inside the Seonhak Gymnasium today has not gone down well with some members of the national contingent.

Sarita, who lost a controversial 56 kg semi-final bout against South Korea's Jina Park, did not allow the medal to
hang on her neck and after accepting it by hand she handed it over to Jina, who stood second on the podium.

Contingent sources told PTI that at least one top international boxer, among quite a few who are here, felt that
the Manipur boxer should not have behaved the way she did and that it sets a bad precedent.

"We all sympathise with her but she should realise that winning and losing is a part and parcel of sports, you win
some and lose some. What happened today sets a bad precedent. She¿s a top boxer and her behaviour will give wrong ideas to youngsters who look up to her," said one official, who refused to be named.

"It is also wrong to say she was not supported yesterday. The chief coach of boxing was there, the deputy chef de
mission was there. But the fact is, as per the rules you cannot lodge a protest. The boxing authorities refused to
accept the protest or the money to go with it, then where's the question of the money being returned," the official
wondered.

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