New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) Manavjit Singh Sandhu's quest to qualify for the Paris Olympics suffered a huge setback on Saturday after his gun stock failed the equipment control test ahead of Asian Qualifiers in Kuwait, a development the veteran shooter blamed on "politics".
Manavjit alleged that the tournament director was playing politics, perhaps because "they were scared" of India winning the Olympic quota.
The 47-year-old Manavjit has returned to the Indian side after more than three years and the 2006 World Championship gold medallist is planning to approach the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF), the Athletes' Commission and explore other legal options for redressal.
"The Tournament Director (TD) has a history of being against us. He is not part of the equipment jury. In the morning, we went to the equipment jury as is the norm to get the gun passed, and they passed my gun," Manavjit told PTI.
"They did the measurement of the gun stock. I was within the limits and they passed me. Meanwhile, somebody informed the TD and he took it upon himself to veto it. As the final authority, he can veto it (the decision of the jury)," said Manavjit, who also shot with the same stock at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games besides numerous World Cups.
"The TD has changed his argument a number of times and it is very clear what his motive is. I have not violated anything. The rules are in front and I told him 'tell me the rule under which I am being (disqualified)'. He is changing his thing (argument) from here and there and not permitting me to shoot," added a hassled Manav from Kuwait.
"Politics is being played by this guy. May be, it's something to do with some politics of the federations or something, but they are refusing to allow me to shoot with my weapon." Manavjit said he will go with the national team coaches in the morning to the ranges where he will be disqualified and then he will "go under protest".
"I will take it up through the ISSF, though the athletes commission and through various other things to understand how can they do this when it is not there in the rule." Manav said he had not faced such an issue during his three decades of competitive shooting.
"This is the first time it has happened to me. I shot with this gun even at the Olympic Games and also won the World Cup in Tucson (USA) with the same stock. I have been using the stock for 10 years.
"I shot the 2016 Olympics with the same stock. I've passed (weapons control) with this same stock at so many world cups.
"This fellow (TD) waited till the last minute and disqualified me because they are scared of us winning the (Olympic) quota.
"The coaches Vikram Rathore and Anwar Sultan have lodged protests. We will take the matter forward through the NRAI and other legal ways." Manav said he was shattered by the development on Saturday.
"It's terrible after all the effort. You wait for your chance to win the quota for the country and so much effort and preparation, one moment and this is shattering. I was returning to the national side after 3.5 years. I prepared for this tournament, won the trials, got selected...
He said he was in touch with NRAI senior vice president Kalikesh Singhdeo.
"He has promised to help in whatever way he can. We will lodge our protest and the federation will back me," he added.
However, coach Vikram Rathore, despite repeated efforts did not take calls.
Khel Ratna awardee and former world No.1 double trap shooter Ronjan Sodhi told PTI, "What are the coaches doing? Why aren't they clearing the air on the whole episode. Manav is one of the best the country has produced. He needs all the support." It is learnt that the NRAI is also trying to get in touch with ISSF president Luciano Rossi to get the matter resolved. PTI AM AM AT AT