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Boxing: Indian star took heroin 12 times - police

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Indian Olympic bronze-medallist boxer Vijender Singh took heroin 12 times, according to police who are investigating his links to an alleged dealer in a $24 million drug haul last month.

Police in the northwestern state of Punjab said investigations showed that 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."

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 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.

The federal sports ministry on Monday ordered the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to carry out immediate tests on Vijender for the reported use of heroin.

The ministry said in a statement that reports of a "sporting icon" like Vijender consuming heroin were "disturbing and may have a debilitating influence on other sportspersons in the country".

"It has, therefore, been considered necessary that NADA gets a test carried out on Vijender for his reported use of heroin even out-of-competition," the statement said

Officials from NADA had earlier 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.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130401/boxing-indian-star-took-heroin-12-times-police-0