Rower Dattu in uneven waters, exits nationwide camp

Vinayak Padmadeo

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3

Arjuna Award-winning rower Dattu Bhokanal has walked into trouble once again. Bhokanal has been ordered by the Army Rowing Node (ARN) to return to his unit after his insistence on getting leave from the national camp in Pune.

Bhokanal, who finished a creditable 13th in single sculls in the 2016 Olympic Games, has left the camp, but he has also requested Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general Sandip Pradhan to intervene in the matter. “…It is very disheartening to note the approach of these officials towards top sportsmen of the country. It is therefore requested to kindly intervene in the issue and resolve it amicably. I assure you that I will serve the nation in the best of my abilities and deliver desirable results,” Bhokanal wrote to Pradhan.

SAI said that the matter is being investigated. “We will talk to all the stakeholders including the federation before deciding anything,” a SAI official said.

Conduct questioned

In its report, ARN questioned Bhokanal’s conduct before ordering his return to his unit, Bombay Engineer Group & Centre in Pune.

As per the report, Bhokanal had wanted to leave the camp since October for family reasons, but his request was turned down due to fears over him contracting Covid-19. The ARN report suggests that Bhokanal, who is a Naib Subedar, feigned a knee injury after his initial application for a leave of 14 days was denied.

Bhokanal was sent for a consultation with a civilian doctor and no injury in the knee were found. But he again insisted on leave and this time the authorities granted him two-day leave. On November 23, the rower requested for a premature discharge after which he was counselled by his superior officers to continue training.

However, when he could not be persuaded, the ARN officials got in touch with Rowing Federation of India president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo and the rower was relieved from the national camp.

Family issues

Bhokanal denied that he requested for a discharge from his unit. “I have not written for premature discharge. I just wanted a few days’ leave to settle family issues,” Bhokanal told The Tribune from his native Nashik. He suggested that the civilian doctor did not give him a proper check-up.

“He was acting strangely. He said I have some mental or psychological issues when I went there to get my knees checked!” he added. “So I had no option but to approach SAI to settle this matter. As far as I am concerned, I am not turning my back on rowing and I am still motivated to do well.”

Incidentally, the 29-year-old was in a controversy in 2018 after he tanked a race in the 2018 Asian Games and was banned for two years. His ban was overturned early this year and he was conferred with the Arjuna Award.

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