Doping scandal to haunt India for long

New Delhi: The doping scandal involving eight athletes has put India in a spot of bother as it comes within a year of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) having paid a huge fine to get an international suspension lifted from the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) for participation in the Commonwealth Games.

The weightlifters were expected to bring home a bagful of medals but it was the athletes who outsmarted their much fancied rivals and won the nation a gold medal in the track and field after 42 years.

To everybody’s surprise it was the women’s 4×400 metres relay team, comprising Manjeet Kaur, Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose and Ashwini Akkunji which won the yellow metal and were dubbed as India’s golden girls.

The quartet took the country by storm by winning the gold medal in the Asian Games as well, prompting some of the legends like P.T.Usha to raise their eyebrows.

Usha’s worst fears came true last month as three of the golden girls – Mandeep, Sini and Ashwini – along with five other athletes were provisionally suspended for failing dope tests. What was more surprising that six of the eight athletes tested positive for methandienone.

What followed was claims and counter claims from the dope tainted athletes, who said their food supplements were contaminated, a common defence taken by all athletes who fail dope tests.

The dope scandal prompted Sports Minister Ajay Maken to crack the whip on the Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials and coaches, along with the players. Foreign coach Yuri Orgodonik of Ukraine was sacked while his two assistants at National Institute of Sports (NIS) Patiala were suspended and showcaused.

The 75-year-old Orgodonik, who was appointed to train the 400 metres team, also pleaded innocence and laid the blame squarely on the food supplements, which were bought from China during the Asian Games.

Though the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) agreed to test the food supplements but the dope cases raised questions on training facilities in Ukraine and other East European countries.

Maken said that recently, before the doping scandal broke, Orgodonik and some of the athletes approached him to arrange a training camp at Yalta in Ukraine but the minister firmly shot it down.

The sports minister believes there is connivance between athletes and officials.

“We have to find out how banned substances entered National Institute of Sports (NIS) Patiala. Since these banned substances have been found in the premises of NIS, it smacks of some connivance between athletes and officials. We have to find out whether officials are involved in it,” Maken said.

The minister also appointed Mukul Mudgal, retired chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to look into the evils of the doping menace that has plagued Indian sports.

Mudgal, who also heads the five-member committee set-up by the ministry to finetune the National Sports Development Bill, has a tough task on hand since he has to submit a report within six weeks.

“You would recollect that lot of our wrestlers, some of the athletes also, are not well-educated and to understand what is banned has to be necessarily publicized. We have just heard somebody saying that food supplements are contaminated. So that is also got to be looked into. I will start work on Monday itself. I have six weeks. I hope to finish it in six weeks but if it won’t finish I will seek two weeks more,” Mudgal said.

Sports medicine experts feels that SAI centers, especially NIS Patiala, are notorious for systematic doping.

Ashok Ahuja, former head of sports medicine at SAI, said it would be a tough task to clean up Indian sports.

“The government has to take strict measures now. But punishing officials and players only will not serve any purpose. Efforts are required at the grassroots as doping now exists at the junior and sub-junior levels also,” said Ahuja.

Renowned sports medicine expert P.S.M. Chandran said that the trend of doping also exists at other SAI centres like Bangalore centre and also at Pune’s Army Sports Institute (ASI).

“Only NIS Patiala gets focused but the reality is that the trend of doping exists at Banglore and even ASI Pune. This is not new as far as Indian sports are concerned and AFI (Athletics Federation of India is very well aware of this,” he said. (IANS)