NEW DELHI – Indian Olympic bronze-medallist boxer Vijender Singh took heroin 12 times, according to police who are investigating his links to an alleged dealer and a $24-million drug haul last month.
Police in northwestern Punjab said investigations showed both Vijender, who won a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and fellow boxer Ram Singh procured the drug from the alleged dealer between December and February.
“Vijender Singh consumed the drug about 12 times and Ram Singh about five times,” Punjab police said in a statement Sunday which did not specify how they had reached this conclusion.
“However, they did not actively connive with the smugglers in their activities and nothing was recovered from them – as such both of them are not being arrested in the case at this stage.”
The police said Vijender, himself a police officer in the neighbouring state of Haryana, had declined to provide hair and blood samples for testing last month.
Vijender, 27, who became a household name in India after winning the Olympic medal, has strongly denied any link to the drug dealer and has slammed as “ridiculous” the allegations against him.
The high-profile sportsman has not been seen in public for the past few weeks and has not issued any statement on the latest police allegations.
Police seized 26 kilograms (57 pounds) of heroin with a street value of 1.3 billion rupees ($24 million) in March in the northern state of Punjab. The alleged dealer was arrested along with five others.
Vijender was linked to the haul after a car belonging to his wife was found outside the residence of the alleged dealer near Chandigarh.
Officials from the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) said Vijender was unlikely to be penalised since any drug use was done out of competition.
“Heroin is a banned drug, but an athlete can be punished only if he tests positive in ‘in-competition’ testing,” NADA director-general Mukul Chatterjee told reporters.
“Vijender is not training for any competition these days, so he cannot be penalised.”
Vijender failed to win a medal at the London Olympics last year after he was defeated in the quarter-finals.
There have been a number of major drug seizures in Punjab in recent years. A Punjab university study in 2011 suggested that up to 70 percent of the state’s youth were addicted to drugs or alcohol.