Silly Vijender, sillier state

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 02, 2013 04:34 hrs

From what we've seen in the Vijender Singh heroin caper, it is a wonder that India is not awash with people doing drugs.

Vijender is not the last Indian sportsman, or even celeb, who'll do drugs. But we do hope this is the last time the state behaves as it has.

From the moment the Punjab Police acted on a tip-off and actually discovered heroin in Kahlon's flat in early March, the state has been clueless.

Vijender has been stupid. Everything he did is embarrassing for him, his family, his friends, his coach, and youngsters who want to be boxers because of Vijender's success.

Boxing, on the other hand, will not be affected by what one boxer does. A sport is always bigger than a sportsman.

But what of the state?

The state is there to conduct matters of policy and law and order so we may go about living our individual lives.

What the state does is a reflection of us, our country, our thinking, our sensibility, our outrage or the lack of it.

What the sports ministry could have done

The moment Vijender's friend Ram Singh confessed, the sports ministry ought to have summoned Vijender.

Vijender is a Padma Shri. The government could easily have read him the riot act and threatened to strip him of the honour.

It did not, which suggests that the government doesn't know what to do when Padma awardees behave inappropriately.

Vijender was given the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, which is India's highest sports honour.

The sports ministry could have ordered Vijender to drop by and told him he the award would be taken away.

They did not, indicating that they know not what to do.

Now, when it may be too late, the sports ministry has asked the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to test Vijender for heroin.

The ministry said: Such reports (of heroin use) in respect of a sporting icon are disturbing and may have a debilitating influence on other sportspersons in the country.

"It has, therefore, been considered necessary that NADA gets a test carried out on Vijender (Singh) for his reported use of heroin even out-of-competition."

The ministry has asked NADA to carry out the test ‘immediately'.

The urgency is several days too late.

It looks like the ministry wants to cover its tracks. It isn't what a responsible state does.

What the Punjab Police should've done

The Punjab Police could have called Vijender every day for questioning. They insult and ill-treat many ordinary people for no reason.

Here, when there was enough justification, they treated Vijender like he was god.

The police should've gone to court weeks ago when Vijender first refused to give hair and blood samples.

Instead, they waited until it might be too late anyway before saying they'll approach court now.

They've virtually let Vijender get away.

Now, they say Vijender took heroin 12 times. How do they know?

Unless a person maintains a diary, there is no way to state with accuracy how many times he or she may have taken a drug. Especially months after.

The reason why the Punjab Police is so untrustworthy is simple: they don't scare drug dealers.

The Punjab Police hasn't managed to get any drug dealer what they deserve.

The only ones who fear the police in Punjab are the innocent and the ordinary people – for whom the police exist.

This is why Vijender does what he is. He knows he is safe.

So far, the police have been treating it as a criminal case. They are looking for evidence to put Vijender away as a criminal.

Vijender is not a criminal. At least not yet. He is a drug user; not a peddler.

What the coach and the boxing world ought to have done

Vijender needs a counsellor. He needs treatment, not imprisonment.

The man with maximum influence here is the coach, GS Sandhu.

The coach spent valuable days defending Vijender, claiming he is not ‘the kind of person' to do drugs.

Not once did Sandhu do the right thing. Any mentor would've got after the mentee in this situation.

Mentors teach mentees to take responsibility. They don't teach evasion and deceit.

Now, weeks later, Sandhu says Vijender should give samples to the police because the ‘investigating agencies wanted to move court for it'.

Therefore, if the courts were not a factor, Vijender could have carried on without a worry.

The India Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) could also have pushed Vijender in the right direction.

Instead, it behaved like Vijender was the victim.

Even now, IABF president Abhishek Matoria says he would say something only ‘after everything comes out in black and white'.

Matoria says he'll talk to Vijender and ‘ask him what's on his mind'. In other words, he hasn't so far.

A right-thinking IABF would've asked Vijender to do everything to speed up investigation and provide samples immediately.

It could've derecognised Vijender until he came out clean. There was enough evidence to do so.

Other boxers too have been effete.

Four weeks later, Akhil Kumar and Vikas Krishnan say the Vijender heroin case will have a negative effect.

Kumar won gold in the 2006 Commonwealth Games and Krishnan won gold at the 2010 Asian Games.

They say Vijender is no longer a role model.

What we should do

A drug user is not the same as a drug dealer.

Vijender seems to have friends who drink or use drugs. Peer pressure is highly persuasive. Most people know drugs through friends.

Also, Vijender appears to have poor social and coping skills. His idea of fun was the Bollywood rave party.

He didn't know what to do with fame or fortune. It happens.

Then, there is easy availability of drugs in Punjab. There are many drug peddlers.

Whether Vijender called Kahlon 80 times is not the point. Dealers and users have to trust each other for it to work.

It is thus normal for users to call peddlers often.

Vijender doesn't need prison. In any case, the law treats users differently.

Vijender needs counselling.

He doesn't seem to have a long history of drugs. He can be helped.

If Vijender sticks to lies and denial, we could strip him off his awards.

But if he turns things around, he could be a hero.

The police need to get after the dealers. They ought to make an example of one.

If they don't, they should be in jail.

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The boxer, the drug dealer, and the yarn

Rahul Gandhi and the singletons in Indian politics

To hang a man: How to read Afzal Guru's death

10 great reasons to leave India

Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at