The Union Sports Ministry on Tuesday decided to ‘punish' Yuriy Ogorodnik, the Ukrainian coach in-charge of training the tainted Indian athletes.
In a strongly-worded statement, aimed at giving a firm message, Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken said, “No guilty will be spared and this time we will also be acting against the people behind the scandal.”
Maken termed the developments, eight athletes testing positive, a very “disturbing” trend.
“They have brought disgrace to the country and the sports fraternity and we have to take some strong measures.”
The Sports Minister did not favour just “punishing” the athletes. “It is always the athletes who are punished and the others associated with them are let off scot-free. Athletes are banned and their medals are withdrawn but what of the coaches and the officials,” he asked.
Maken, who has sought a report from the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) following the doping scandal, announced that he had recommended the dismissal of the Ukrainian coach and also advised removal of any other coaches suspected of encouraging the use of performance-enhancing substances.
Ogorodnik had coached six of the eight athletes who tested positive and all of these athletes happened to be women's 400m runners.
The list included Asian Games double-gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji and her relay teammates Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose, who won the 4x400m gold at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the Guangzhou Asian Games last year.
“How can he (Ogorodnik) absolve himself? We cannot be lenient against the coaches when we are punishing the athletes. Now we have to be strict,” said Maken.
The Sports Ministry had demanded a report from the AFI and is looking at the the possibility of increasing the strength of doctors at NIS, Patiala to at least three, including one lady doctor.
Maken added that an inquiry, headed by a Retd. High Court Judge or Chairman, Disciplinary hearing Panel of NADA, be constituted to look into and establish the reasons leading up to such state of affairs, its effect, prevalence and modus operandi.
The inquiry is expected to suggest concrete measures to ensure that such issues do not emerge in future. Outlining the various steps to curb the menace of doping, Maken also spoke about the possibility of more coaches and officials coming under the punishment net.
“We will take action against officials (at NIS, Patiala) too. There are instances of their connivance with the athletes.”
Elaborating on the steps taken, the Sports Minister gave details of the various measures announced by the National Anti Dope Agency (NADA) in the last two days to prevent the occurrence of dope in sports.
Among the significant decisions are increase in frequency of dope tests; tie up with the customs authorities to detect the import of such banned food supplements/drugs; track movement of drugs in and around the campus area of training centres; increase the session of counselling of the players; greater surveillance of coaches, doctors and support staff through their employers and conduct frequent searches of rooms of the players, coaches and the support staff.
Sacked coach Ogorodnik defended himself, saying that he has no role in the doping scandal that hit Indian athletics and he had given only medals to the country and not steroids to the athletes.
“I told the athletes to buy only the food supplements and not steroids. I am not suited for that (to tell athletes to do a wrong thing). I am a professional coach,” he said.
“I am not a fool to tell athletes to buy and consume something which is in the WADA list. I have given only medals and not steroids,” said Ogorodnik, who has been in charge of the women's 400m, 400m Hurdles and 4x400m relay since 1999.
The dope tainted athletes, including Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose, had said they suspected the vitamin supplements they consumed on the recommendation of their coach could have been the source of the anabolic steroids.b
However, Ogorodnik said he would not know about this.
“I don't know how the supplements would have contained the steroids. I have only asked the athletes to buy food supplements. I don't know who did that (to buy supplements which could have been contaminated),” the coach said.