New Delhi (AFP) – Indian police have put a reward on the head of two-time Olympic wrestling medalist Sushil Kumar who is wanted in connection with a murder case.
The 37-year-old has been on the run since a former wrestling champion was beaten to death on May 4 and a Delhi court on Tuesday rejected a bid by his lawyers to prevent his arrest.
Police have launched raids in the Delhi region and offered a $1,350 reward leading to the capture of Kumar, who won a freestyle wrestling silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics and a bronze at the Beijing Games four years earlier.
Kumar, who had also won a world title and Commonwealth Games golds, was present when a former junior national champion Sagar Dhankad was beaten to death at New Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium in a clash between rival wrestlers, according to police.
“We have recorded statements of all the victims and they all made allegations against Sushil Kumar,” senior police officer Guriqbal Singh Sidhu told Indian media.
Kumar’s lawyers went to court Tuesday to seek anticipatory bail in the case but it was refused because of the gravity of the allegations.
“Our teams are looking for Mr Sushil Kumar. We have maintained from the first day that he should join the police probe, and present his case,” Chinmoy Biswal, deputy commissioner of Delhi police Chinmoy Biswal told AFP.
“If he hadn’t gone on the run there wouldn’t have been any warrants or reward for his arrest. Whatever he needs to say, he should come forward.”
Dhankad, son of a Delhi police officer, died from his injuries the day after the fight. Another wrestler is under treatment and has identified the alleged attackers, police said.
Just weeks from the scheduled start of the Tokyo Olympics, the Wrestling Federation of India admitted that the sport’s reputation has been tarnished by the case.
“I must say that the image of Indian wrestling has been hurt badly by this,” WFI secretary Vinod Tomar told reporters.
Tomar said wrestling had been battling to improve its name as “for long wrestlers were known only as a bunch of goons.”
The case is the second in months to hit Indian wrestling.
A coach Sukhwinder Mor is awaiting trial for the murder of five people, including a rival coach, in February.
Kumar was the first Indian to win two individual Olympic medals and also the first in more than five decades to get a wrestling medal.
His success inspired a generation of Indian wrestlers, including Yogeshwar Dutt and the Phogat sisters.
Whilst still active in the sport, Kumar had not qualified for the Tokyo Games where India had hopes of winning four medals.