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Sarita Devi's suspension verdict too harsh

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) has provisionally suspended women’s boxer Laishram Sarita Devi for refusing to accept the bronze medal at the Asian Games in Incheon. Sarita had refused to accept the medal on the podium, as she had protested a verdict that stopped her for entering the final, and instead gave the bout to her opponent South Korea’s Ji-Na Park. A disappointed Sarita had shed copious tears but later she did tender an unconditional apology to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and boxing world body a day after her protest.

The boxer has been barred from taking part in AIBA tournaments, and even her coaches will not be allowed to enter the World Championships to be held in Jeju Islands, South Korea, next month. The case has been sent for review to the AIBA disciplinary committee.

Yet, one thinks this is unnecessarily harsh, for though the boxer was wrong in refusing the medal, she has apologised for her actions. A less stringent punishment would have been effective and in order.

While the suspension may be lifted, in this way, the boxer is in limbo as she does not know when the order would be lifted and what to train for further. International sport is all about focusing on the next challenge, the next championship, but with the boxer not knowing when that would be, if at all, it would be difficult for her to start planning and training for the next event. While Sarita needs to be pulled up for misbehaviour, one feels this is excessive. Now, of course, the coaches have sent written explanations and hope their argument cuts ice with the AIBA. They are hopeful that matters would be resolved soon and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) takes up the cause.

While a decision that goes against you is tough, especially when you have so obviously dominated the bout, as was evident in Sarita’s case, it is a bitter fact of sporting life. It is evident that Sarita has learnt her lesson and regretted her actions on the podium. It is time to let her pick up the pieces and continue her career, not keep her in this state of uncertainty. Take a less harsh view on Sarita.

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