Jaspal Rana was ignored for this year's Dronacharya award after none of his proteges, including Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary, mentioned him as their mentor in official records, according to a member of the 12-member selection panel for the national sports awards.
While Saurabh has mentioned Amit Sheroen as his coach in the official records, Manu and Anish Bhanwala have named Suresh Kumar and Harpreet Singh respectively as their mentors.
"We went by what the athletes have declared in the official records. None of Jaspal Rana's so-called proteges have named him as their coach in the affidavit filed up to be a part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)," the member told PTI.
Rana's exclusion caused some controversy after India's only individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra on Saturday criticised the selection panel for not nominating the former for the Dronacharya Award.
Rana, a multiple Asian Games gold-medallist shooter, is credited to have groomed the likes of Manu, Saurabh and Anish into world class shooters.
The selection panel nominated Vimal Kumar (badminton), Sandeep Gupta (table tennis) and Mohinder Singh Dhillon (athletics) for the Dronacharya Award in regular category, while Mezban Patel (hockey), Rambir Singh Khokar (kabaddi), Sanjay Bhardwaj (cricket) were picked for the Dronacharya Award in the lifetime category.
Dronacharya Awards are given to honour eminent coaches who have successfully trained sportspersons or teams and enabled them to achieve outstanding results in international competitions. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh.
"How can we award someone when his proteges have not mentioned his name as their coach? That was the main bone of contention and that went against him. It was a fair and unanimous decision," the member told PTI.
According to a Sports Authority of India (SAI) source, Rana also had to pay the price for disciplinary issues after not being present during Manu's 25m pistol final at the Munich World Cup in May this year.
"Rana had travelled as the pistol coach for the Munich World Cup but during Manu's final, where her weapon got stuck twice, he was not present. That cost Manu and the country an Olympic quota place," the source said.
Former football captain Bhaiching Bhutia, who was a member of the selection committee, also said that it was an unanimous decision as they were entitled to pick just three candidates for the Dronacharya award.