Doping Menace Returns to Haunt Indian Weightlifting in 2015
Another suspension would not only be a huge embarrassment for the Indian Weightlifting Federation and the country, especially in the run up to the Olympic Games, but will also be a major setback for India's young and upcoming lifters.
Results in the sporting arena took a backseat as the highest number of weightlifters returned positive for performance-enhancing drugs this year, threatening India's participation in next year's Olympic Games with the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) staring at a suspension. (Five State Units Banned by Indian Weightlifting Federation Ahead of National Meet)
After a dope-free 2014, it seemed that Indian weightlifters had successfully managed to bury the ghosts of drug menace but it came back to haunt the country this year with highest number of offenders ever to be registered.
If the early part of the year was marred by one of the biggest doping scandals in recent times with as many as 26 lifters provisionally suspended by the IWF after testing positive for banned substances at various domestic meets, the end of 2015 saw two women athletes failing dope tests at an international event.
The two women lifters -- Pramila Krisani and Minati Sethi -- were caught for doping at the Commonwealth Championships in Pune in October and were handed provisional suspension from all competitions held under the banner of the International Weightlifting Federation.
They were subsequently dropped from the national team, which was to compete at the World Championship in Houston at the end of November.
As per the rules, three positive tests at international events in a calendar year result in a one-year ban for the national federation. Thus, one more positive case can destroy India's chances of participating in next year's Rio Games.
Earlier, in September, Jameer Hussian and Aporva Chettri had also failed pre-departure tests that were conducted by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) ahead of the Asian Championship.
Had those two athletes also tested positive during the continental meet, the national body would have already been handed a suspension.
The Federation had been banned thrice in the past in 2004, 2006 and 2009, and India had to pay a massive penalty of Rs 2 crore to the world body in order to participate in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Another suspension would not only be a huge embarrassment for the Federation and the country, especially in the run up to the Olympic Games, but will also be a major setback for India's young and upcoming lifters.
Out of the 26 weightlifters, who had tested positive earlier this year across different tournaments -- both out-of-competition and in-competition -- maximum offenders were from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Manipur and caught at the National Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships, held in Yamunanagar, Haryana, in January.
In its desperate attempt to put a halt to the doping menace, the Federation imposed a year-long ban on all four of its State units -- Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Manipur -- for returning highest number of dope cases since the beginning of the year.
The IWF also cracked the whip on the coaches and imposed a two-year ban on the mentors of all those weightlifters who were tested positive.
With the threat of suspension looming large, the Federation has recently decided to ban one more State unit, Services Sports Control Board, apart from those four, from taking part in the national championship, which is scheduled to commence in Patiala from Thursday.