Stars Fall Down: Famous In Sports, Infamous In Crimes

New Delhi: The arrest of two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar for the kidnap and murder of fellow wrestler, Sagar Rana, has sent shockwaves across the nation.

The 38-year-old Sushil’s arrest is more shocking given that he is India’s most decorated wrestler, a former world title holder as well as the recipient of several national honours including the Arjuna Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padma Shri.

Besides, his success in the international wrestling arena inspired many youngsters, including the deceased Sagar Rana, to take up this sport.

No wonder, this internationally famous wrestler’s arrest earlier this week has turned the focus on the link between sports and crime. Delhi Police are also probing Sushil’s links with gangsters. Some of them were allegedly present during the murderous assault on Sagar Rana.

However, this is not the first time that high profile sportspersons, both national and international, have run-ins with the law. Here’s a list of some more names in the rogues’ gallery:

S Sreesanth, Cricketer

The former Indian pacer was arrested by Delhi Police for spot-fixing in IPL matches in 2013. He confessed to the crime and BCCI banned him from playing cricket. In 2015, a Delhi court dropped charges against him. In 2020, the life ban for alleged spot-fixing was reduced to seven years and he returned to competitive cricket early this year.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, Cricketer

The swashbuckling batsman and his cousin had assaulted one Gurnam Singh and two others after a road rage incident on December 27, 1988. Gurnam Singh (65) later succumbed to his injuries. Sidhu was arrested in 1991. The Supreme Court in 2018 acquitted the former cricketer from culpable homicide charges, but convicted him for causing simple injury and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 without any jail term.

Iqbal Singh Boparai, Shot-putter

Boparai was charged with the double murder of his mother and wife in in Pennsylvania, US. He himself called police and confessed his crime. The former shot-putter won a bronze medal at the 1983 Asian Athletics Championship, which was held in Kuwait. This remained the biggest achievement of his sporting career before he moved to the US, where he worked as a taxi driver.

Tanveer Hussain, Snowshoe Competitor

The Indian athlete was indicted in the US in 2017 on charges of sexually abusing a minor girl, days after he arrived from Kashmir for a snowshoe competition. Hussain was arrested in March on charges of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl. The arrest came two days after he competed in the World Snowshoe Championships at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center. He was indicted by a jury for having inappropriate contact with a minor girl.

Deepak Pahal, Boxer

In 2016, Pahal helped a gangster escape from police custody while being taken to a Haryana court and was arrested by Delhi Police’s Crime Branch. Currently, the boxer-turned gangster, holds a Rs 2 lakh reward for his role in four murders, extortion. Pahal, who had competed in the 60kg lightweight division, had won he won the gold medal in the national junior boxing event in 2011 in Pune and in 2012 represented India in the Haydev Aliyev Cup Boxing tournament in Uzbekistan. He was expelled from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) hostel in Sonepat after a case was filed against him for reportedly breaking the jaw of another boxer in a brawl.

Jai Bhagwan, Boxer

Two-time Asian Championships medallist and Arjuna awardee Jai Bhagwan, who was an Inspector with Haryana police, was suspended for assaulting a hotel manager in 2015. Bhagwan was also suspended following allegations that he had accepted a bribe of Rs.1 lakh from three gamblers who were arrested in Haryana’s Hisar district. Jai Bhagwan has represented India in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and other international events. He won a bronze medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Paan Singh Tomar, Athlete

Paan Singh Tomar’s exploits became famous after the late Irrfan Khan-starrer biopic. He served in the Indian Army, where his talent for running was discovered. He was a seven-time national steeplechase champion in the 1950s and 1960s, and represented India at the 1958 Asian Games. After a premature retirement from the army, Tomar returned to his native village. He later gained notoriety as a dacoit of Chambal Valley, when he resorted to violence after a land feud. In late 1981, Tomar was killed in a police encounter at a village in Bhind district in Madhya Pradesh.

OJ Simpson, Football Player

In 1994, Simpson was arrested and charged with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. He was acquitted by a jury after a lengthy and internationally publicized trial. The families of the victims subsequently filed a civil suit against him. A civil court awarded a $33.5 million judgment against him in 1997 for the victims’ wrongful deaths. In 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, and charged with armed robbery and kidnapping. He was convicted and sentenced to 33 years’ imprisonment, but released on parole 10 years later.

Mike Tyson, Boxer

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was accused of raping 18-year-old beauty-pageant contestant Desiree Washington. He was found guilty and given a 10-year prison sentence. He was released, after serving three years, in March 1995. Tyson also had run-ins with the law and spent several months in jail for assaulting motorists after a traffic accident.

Boris Becker, Tennis Player

Until 2017, Boris Becker was at the pinnacle of tennis. As Novak Djokovic’s coach, he helped the World No 1 win six Grand Slam titles, including a Career Grand Slam. But just as sudden as his rise in tennis – becoming the youngest ever Wimbledon champion at 17 in 1985 – the downfall was just as rapid. In 2020, the 52-year-old was accused in a London court of failing to submit his Grand Slam trophies to repay his debt. He’s been fighting bankruptcy since filing for it in 2017. He’s also been accused of money siphoning.

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