The controversial recommendation of boxer Jai Bhagwan for the prestigious Arjuna Awards stands after the selection committee on Tuesday decided not to make any changes in the original 15-athlete list.
Sports Authority of India director general Jiji Thomson, who was part of the Awards committee, said the panel discussed seven athletes in the review meeting but it was unanimously agreed that no changes were needed.
Manoj said that he had been assured by the sports secretary and Thomson himself that his name would be added in Tuesday’s meeting and their backtracking was a “betrayal”.
“When my elder brother met the sports secretary on August 13, the sports secretary had admitted that there was a mistake on the part of the ministry by mistakenly thinking that I was involved in a dope offence. Mr Ajit Sharan had told my brother that my name will be added in the review meeting,” Manoj, who is in the national camp at the NIS here, said.
“The SAI DG himself called me up the next day (August 14) that my case will be considered and no injustice would be done to me. He assured me that my name will be added in the Arjuna list. But all these turned out to be false promises and they have backtracked now. I have a trial for the Asian Games next week and I am in severe mental stress,” he said.
“First, they tarnished my image by mistakenly calling me a dope offender and then betrayed me by backtracking on what they had promised. It’s an insult and betrayal,” a dejected Manoj, who won a gold in 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, said.
Manoj’s elder brother and coach Rajesh Kumar said that he will file a case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
“This is an injustice to my brother. What motivation an athlete will have to bring laurels for the country if he was treated like this. I will file a case at the High Court in Chandigarh very soon.
“I will file an RTI to the government tomorrow first and then the case at the High Court. I will ask for the points Manoj has got under the marking system used by the selection panel and the points earned by the 15 recommended athletes. That information will be used as evidence in the High Court case,” said Rajesh.
Rajesh also wondered how Thomson can claim that Manoj has time with him and he can get the award later on.
“How can it be? He (Manoj) won a gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and this achievement will not be considered for next year’s Arjuna Award as only four-year achievement is counted. Next year’s Arjuna will start counting achievements from 2011 onwards,” he said.
“Otherwise, what is the point of waiting. If a person is deserving, then he is deserving. Many a times in the past, two athletes from the same sport were given Arjuna.”
Rajesh said sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal had also assured, through his personal secretary, that the case of Manoj will be addressed and those officials who committed the mistake of taking him as a dope offender will be taken to task.
“I sought a meeting with the sports minister on August 13 and I waited for him late on that day. The Minister returned to office around 9:30pm after some work. The Minister sent his PS to tell me that Manoj’s case will be reconsidered in the selection committee meeting.
“The PS also told me that the officials who placed Manoj’s name as a dope offender before the selection panel will also be taken to task. But now it turned out that all these were just talk in the air,” he said.