For the third year in a row, world championship silver medallist boxer Amit Panghal has been overlooked for a national sports award. The probable reason? A failed dope test eight years back, when he was a rising boxer in the youth system.
Panghal had served a ban of 18 months in 2012-13 after testing positive for an anabolic steroid. As per the eligibility criteria for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, “Sportspersons who have been penalized or against whom enquiry is pending/ongoing for use of banned substances…will not be eligible for the award.”
“It was during my youth level and my dope ban was reduced from two years to one and a half years because I had consumed it inadvertently when I was sick,” Panghal said. “Why is that part not acknowledged? Now it seems as if I am going to be tainted for life.”
The 24-year-old has come a long way since then to become one of the finest amateur boxers in the country. In 2018, he won gold at the Asian Games. The next year, he won the Asian Championships, became India’s first male boxer to win a silver medal at the World Championships, and became the world’s No1 boxer in his weight class (52kg), where he continues to reign.
In both 2018 and 2019, Panghal had applied for the Arjuna, without any luck. This year, the Boxing Federation of India recommended him for the Khel Ratna, while the Indian Army put his name forward for the Arjuna. A Subedar in the Army, Panghal was given the Vishist Sewa Medal after his feat at the World Championships.
Panghal said he was not expecting an award this year too, but was more pained to see that his coach Anil Dhankar—a former national medallist—was also sidelined for the Dronacharya.
“I have consistently won medals for the country in the last few years at the international level,” Panghal said. “I am being felicitated by the sports ministry and given cash awards by the government. Then why am I being neglected for the Arjuna and Khel Ratna awards? It is a big disappointment in an Olympic year.
“I was at least expecting my coach to be given the Dronacharya. He has made me a champion. A coach at the grassroots in India works hard to groom an athlete. I had no money to spend on boxing. He invested his money, time and energy, bought me equipment, boxing gloves, shoes, and took care of my diet,” Panghal, who comes from a village called Myna in Rohtak, Haryana, said.