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Life ban on Jwala too harsh

It’s a year full of sporting court cases and there could well be another legal battle on between Jwala Gutta and the Badminton Association of India (BAI) whose disciplinary committee has recommended a life ban on the glamourous shuttler from Hyderabad.

Gutta’s ‘crime’? Creating a fuss over a last-minute replacement for an injured Bangla Beats player (Hong Kong’s Hu Yun) in the inaugural Indian Badminton League. Gutta, who was representing Delhi Smashers, didn’t feel it was fair for Hu Yun to be replaced by a higher ranked player — Denmark’s Jan Jorgensen.

The issue was settled after Gutta’s protest which caused a 30-minute delay to the proceedings in Bangalore.

Officials are never tolerant of players who speak their mind and walk the talk so it is no surprise to see Gutta in the red. But a life ban recommendation appears to be the work of sporting extremists.

If Gutta, according to a disciplinary committee member on Saturday, did not sound apologetic in her response to the showcause notice, there is a good chance she won’t apologise to the BAI president which is what the officials want her to do.

Gutta is as tough as they come and has never accepted poor administration. So this match, as cricket commentators say ad nauseum on television, will go down to the wire.

Banning Gutta for life will be a low blow. She may have rubbed people the wrong way but life bans are appropriate for only those who indulge in corruption.

Corruption is rampant among sports officials so how come they don’t get banned for life?

Clearly, Gutta is being made to suffer for her forthrightness which has been visible even before the IBL incident. She expressed her disappointment when her base price was reduced at the IBL player auction. “It is disrespectful. I am deeply hurt and upset,” she said last July, much to the displeasure of certain officials.

But the residue of past issues cannot mingle with the punishment for a specific incident.

At a time when Indian badminton is at its promising best, this is no time for ugly court battles. Gutta’s recommended punishment is way too harsh and she must benefit from a fair amount of support from sporting India.  

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