Indian Olympic Boxer Accused of Heroin Abuse

By McCarton Ackerman 04/02/13

Vijender Singh's controversy directs global attention to Punjab's rampant drug problem.

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Vijender Singh was a 2008 Olympic bronze
medalist.
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Vijender Singh, who became the first boxer in India to win an Olympic medal when he took home bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has been accused by police of buying and consuming heroin on numerous occasions. Punjab police claim that Singh used heroin acquired from smugglers a dozen times, while his sparring partner Ram Singh reportedly used the drug five times in the past year. The Indian sports ministry has asked the National Anti-Doping Agency, or NADA, to immediately conduct drug tests on the boxer in an effort to clear his name. "Such reports in respect of a sporting icon are disturbing and may have a debilitating influence on other sportspersons in the country,” said the ministry in a statement. But NADA has refused to administer an out-of-competition heroin test, which they say would go against world anti-doping protocol. However, they did say that they would administer a routine substance test, since Singh has missed three mandatory out-of-competition drug tests in the last one month.The boxer has denied all charges against him. His controversy sheds greater light on the drug epidemic in Punjab, where rates of drug-related crime are almost 10 times the national average for India. India’s First Post newspaper described Punjab’s drug problem as “gargantuan,” and the local government estimated in 2009 that two-thirds of all rural Punjabi households had at least one drug addict.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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