The sympathy of the Union Sports Ministry towards the suspended quartermilers, training at the SAI centre in Sonepat against accepted norms, was further evident, as the Sports Minister Ajay Maken feigned ignorance and declared that he would conduct an inquiry on the subject.
“I can say that the Government is not at all involved. It is a serious matter, and we will look into it,'' said Maken, when queried on the subject, at a press conference at the SAI headquarters, here on Wednesday.
The minister emphasised that the six athletes (Mandeep Kaur, Jauna Murmu, Ashwini A.C., Sini Jose, Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas) suspended for one year for doping violation, would become eligible in time to qualify for the Olympics and compete in London, as per the National Anti-Doping Appeal Panel (NADAP)'s decision issued on Tuesday. He was non-committal about the immediate status of the athletes at the SAI centre in Sonepat, pending inquiry.
Despite the Steering Committee of the ministry taking a decision at a meeting on March 5 last that the suspended athletes would not be extended financial support, the athletes have continued to train at the Sonepat centre. The assistance extended to the athletes by the SAI is in violation of the UNESCO Convention against Doping in Sports to which the Union Government is a signatory.
Launching the website, providing complete details of the Olympic preparation of the Indian contingent, http://opex.nic.in, the minister said that the issues with regard to the payment of pistol coach in shooting had been sorted out. He also said that the federations were free to import consumables directly.
He also announced that the Ministry of Statistics had allowed the utilisation of the funds at the disposal of the Members of Parliament for Local Area Development, in building sports infrastructure. He said that a scheme was being worked out, with suitable roles for the State and the Central governments.
When asked about the Government's stand with regard to the tour of the Indian hockey team for a tri-nation tournament in Pakistan, the minister said that the sports ministry had given its clearance, and clarified that it would be up to the Ministry of Homes Affairs and the External Affairs, to have a final say on the topic.
Maken was categorical in stating that the Government would continue to protest the sponsorship of the London Games by Dow Chemical through diplomatic channels, and continue with the preparation of the athletes for the Games.
He mentioned that the sponsorship money of Rs. 2 lakh from Dow Chemical in an overall budget of Rs. 1.37 crore was returned by the organisers of a seminar held by a society under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
On the much-awaited unification of the two hockey bodies, Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and Hockey India (HI), Maken said that the ministry had left it to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the FIH to sort out the issue.