Accused of rape, Varun withdraws from FIH Pro League, takes urgent leave to fight legal battle

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New Delhi, Feb 8 (PTI) Accused of rape under the stringent POCSO act, Arjuna award-winning Indian hockey player Varun Kumar has withdrawn from the FIH Pro League in Bhubaneswar to explore his legal options against the allegation, which he described as a "calculated attempt to extort money" from him.

The 28-year-old has been granted "urgent leave" from national duty by Hockey India after he stated that the incident has taken a toll on his "physical and mental health".

Varun has been booked by the Bengaluru Police after a woman accused the defender of sexually abusing her multiple times when she was a minor.

The 22-year-old, in her complaint filed on Monday, said that she came in contact with Varun in 2018 through Instagram, and the player raped her on multiple occasions promising her of marriage when she was 17.

In a letter to Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey, which is in possession of PTI, Varun claimed that the complaint against him is false and a misuse of the "state machinery".

"Through media reports I got to know that a false and frivolous case has been filed against me by a girl with whom I was in a relationship previously and the said case has been culminated into an FIR in Bangalore though I have not been contacted by any police official in this regard," Varun's letter, sent on Wednesday to Tirkey, read.

"The aforesaid case is nothing but a calculated attempt to extort money out of me and to tarnish my reputation and image as I'm an accomplished hockey player having played for India and being an Arjuna Awardee and she knows that such a case could hamper my career and image." Varun, who was with the Indian team in Bhubaneswar for the Pro League matches,said he will fight the allegations legally.

" order to avail my legal remedies and legal rights I would require urgent leave from the academy and furthermore given the circumstances, I will unfortunately not be in a position to participate in the Pro League," Varun wrote.

"This incident has taken a toll on my physical and mental health and this is a very tough time for me and my family...being a sportsperson I have always been taught to fight till the very end and therefore I request your support in these difficult times," he added.

Besides Tirkey, the letter has also been sent to men's team chief coach Craig Fulton and HI secretary general Bholanath Singh.

In her FIR, the woman has alleged that Varun insisted on meeting her after they got in touch on Instagram in 2018 and she relented after some of his friends convinced her. The two eventually became friends and got into a relationship.

According the woman, he took her to a hotel in Bengaluru's Jayanagar in July 2019 and made physical relations with her despite being aware that she was a minor and her resistance.

According to HI sources, the victim was a volleyball player at the National Centre of Excellence in SAI, Bengaluru and the relationship between the two started there.

However, she is no longer an athlete and is currently working as an air hostess.

Varun hails from Himachal Pradesh, and made his debut for India in 2017. He was promoted as a DSP in Punjab Police. He was bestowed the Arjuna award in 2021 and was a part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games silver-winning team. PTI SSC PM SSC PM PM