Dope cheats shame Indian athletics in another dismal year

Updated: 22 December 2013 13:16 IST

Several athletes were found guilty of using banned substances even as poor performances and official gaffes showed India in a dismal shade at international arenas.

Dope cheats shame Indian athletics in another dismal year

New Delhi:

Doping shame and administrative goof-ups dominated the Indian athletics scene with the hosting of Asian Championships for the second time in its history providing the only silver lining in an otherwise disappointing year.

Athletics remained one of the top two disciplines which produced the most number of dope cheats in the tests conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) with 23 from track and field returning positive.


India also faced embarrassment just a day before the start of the July 3-7 Asian Championships in Pune when shot-putter P Udaya Laxmi had to be pulled out after it came to be known that she had returned positive for stimulant methylhexaneamine in a test conducted by NADA during National Inter-State Championships in Chennai in June.

The AFI faced further shame as it tried to include quartermiler Ashwini Akkunji into the women's 4x400 relay team, just a few days after she ended her two-year ban period for a doping offence in 2011. The technical delegate of the championships politely rejected India's request.

National record holder triple jumper Renjith Maheswary found himself embroiled in a controversy, due to a five-year old doping incident which eventually stopped him from being honoured with the Arjuna Award in humiliating circumstances just hours before the award ceremony.

After days of agonising wait, the sports ministry found out that Maheswary indeed failed a dope test during the Kochi Nationals in 2008.

The sports ministry came down hard on the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for failing to furnish critical information about Maheswary's dope flunk and the apparent suppression of facts related to a doping violation in its recommendation of the athlete for Arjuna Award in 2011, 2012 and this year.

Initially, the AFI was in denial mode even about the positive test but informed the ministry later that there indeed was a dope violation at the Kochi Nationals, though it could not locate the files.

A letter the AFI wrote to the Railway Sports Promotion Board -- Maheswary's employers -- in January 2009, informing it of the suspension of the athlete, turned out to be the most authentic piece of evidence in the complicated case.

Maheswary's case came just a month after another major administrative goof-up by the AFI during the August 16-28 Asian Youth Games in Nanjing, China. As many as 17 Indian track and field athletes were thrown out after the AFI sent over-age participants.

Participants in athletics and weightlifting were required to be born on or after January 1, 1997 though the age criteria for other disciplines were different.

The AFI officials, despite the competition manual clearly stating that the participants should be under 17, included 17 over-age athletes -- those born in 1996, and they were disqualified by the organisers.

A furious Sports Authority of India (SAI) asked for an explanation and demanded compensation of Rs 10 lakh it had spent for the travel expenses of the disqualified athletes.

On the brighter side, India hosted the 20th Asian Championships in Pune, for only the second time after New Delhi hosted the continent's top event in 1989. The hosts however could pick up just two gold medals (though third highest medal tally of 17) to finish sixth in a championship which lost much of the sheen with Asian leaders China sending a contingent minus some of their top athletes.

Stars like 2012 London Olympics bronze-medallist high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and London silver medallist discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi of Iran also decided to skip the event.

Despite sending a depleted team, China ran away with top honours with 16 gold, six silver and five bronze, while Bahrain and Japan came second and third respectively.

Ace discus thrower Vikas Gowda and the women's 4x400m relay quartet of M R Poovamma, Tintu Luka, Anu Mariam Jose and Nirmala won gold to salvage some pride for India while the likes of Krishna Poonia (women's discus throw) and Sudha Singh (women's 10,000m race) flopped in the five-day event.

Throughout the year, Indians failed to come up with any creditable performance at the global stage with only Gowda finishing fourth in a Diamond League leg -- ninth leg in Paris -- just after being crowned Asian champions.

Just prior to the Asian Championships, former IOA chief and corruption-tainted official Suresh Kalmadi lost the only sports post he was holding as he was beaten in his own backyard by Ahmad Dahlan of Qatar in the Asian Athletics Association's presidential election.

In a close fight, Kalmadi lost 18-20 to the Qatari, a vice-president of the international governing body of athletics, the IAAF.

After a few months, Kalmadi also lost his membership of the IAAF Council as he no longer remained AAA president.

The Indians also came a cropper in the World Championships in August in Moscow with 15 of them, except Gowda who finished seventh, bringing up the rear in their respective events.

The year also saw Poonia losing out on the prestigious Khel Ratna Award to shooter Ronjan Sodhi in controversial circumstances. Poonia claimed that she had got the nod of the selection panel when the contest was limited to her and para-athlete H N Girisha.

She alleged that Sodhi was brought back at the behest of a member of the selection panel in a re-voting in which she lost out narrowly.

The sports ministry took time to take a decision on the tricky issue but eventually accepted the selection panel's recommendation of Sodhi for the Khel Ratna.

In other developments, the AFI was forced to hold its election of office-bearers twice after the initial one was found to have violated the Sports Code.

The ministry refused to recognise the election of the president, secretary and treasurer in the elections held last year.

The AFI, under threat of de-recognition, amended its constitution in line with the Sports Code and held polls again in April with Adille Sumariwala, C K Valson and P K Sriavstava getting elected as president, secretary and treasurer respectively.



Topics : Athletics
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