A fine sprinter of the 1980s and who was part of the 4 x 400 world championship relay squad in Rome (1987) and Tokyo (1991), Ashwini Nachappa is quite pleased with the news of long jumper Anju Bobby George being declared the winner of the gold medal for her 6. 75cm effort at Monte Carlo in the 2005 Monaco World Athletics finals. Early this week the IAAF disqualified Russain Tatyana Kotova for a doping offence at the 2005 World Championship in Helsinki and upgraded Anju's medal-winning position from silver to gold . `` Whether it’s eight years or nine, a gold medal is a gold medal. She was at the peak of her performance at that point in time and we really cherished those moments when she won the silver. We are really happy that she has got the gold. She is extremely happy and we are very happy that she has got a clean chit and the one who cheated got caught,’’ said Ashwini at a promotional here on Wednesday.
Ashwini touched upon a few more issues related to athletics and IOA. Excerpts:
On doping: What happened to Lance Armstrong ? We will hear stories like that after they (some sportspersons) retire or while they are competing. I believe performance enhancing drugs have become very rampant even in our country; and it has become rampant among young children. It has become such a dangerous trend. Go to any national championships and you will see syringes all over the ground and in the toilets. Even if you are just giving them saline they may think about that (as doping). I am connected with athletics. When I see the junior meets, it is actually quite frightening. I think we need to have a broader education not just within the classroom, but on the field too. Not just with the children, but also with our trainers because the kids will not know what they are taking till a certain age as they are not educated enough and they believe in coaches. So you have got to be a little sensitive on such issues.
When our women's relay team including Ashwini Akkunji and others got caught I was very vocal in saying that it is not just the athletes who are to be blamed, but also the system, the coaches and the environment. Why only penalise the athletes? Of course the athletes at that level of the sport should be aware of it, but it is not just the athletes’ fault, the entire system needs to be blamed. And we are not addressing that issue; that’s my worry.
The relay team ban was a huge blow. I think after our era those were the finest four to come onto the track and to watch them run at the Commonwealth Games at home and the entire nation watching Ashwini Akkunji gave so much joy and pride. There was a gap after P.T. Usha, Shiny Abraham and myself. So that was a big shock for all of us. It was a sad day for Indian sports.
Can Ashwini Akkunji overcome the mental agony and to compete with the same intensity: I have been given to understand that she hasn’t given up training, but we have to give her a couple of competitions to be comfortable running. Anything is mind over matter; if you are mentally strong and have decided to do it, then it’s
possible to do it.
The IOA mess: The very fact that the Indian team is going for the Winter Olympics without sorting out issues speaks volumes of the whole sorry episode. I would have hoped that they (IOA) convened the general assembly, conducted elections and adopted the constitution as per the guidelines of the IOC prior to the team going for the Winter Olympics in order to compete under the national flag. But unfortunately the officials don’t consider this aspect important at all. I mean how could you be so insensitive? They have always been insensitive towards the athletes, but to this extent ? The Games are in February first week, so they could have conducted the elections now; what is the big deal?
We have seen this system for 40-50 years and it is not going to change overnight; it takes a while and I think this is the first step (to clean up sports administration in India). We never ever imagined that IOA would be suspended, but today the entire nation whether you are a sportsperson or not, talk about the rot that has set in Indian sport across all disciplines.
I think there is a lot of media coverage which has actually brought some element of fear and shame among a few officials. And I hope that in the near future the number of officials getting affected by fear would be more. I also personally believe that we need to fight from within the system and so get into the system. I am the President of the Bangalore Districts Association, the vice-president of the Karnataka Athletics Association; to reach the national level you got to be part of these because there is no other way for sportspersons like us can get into the system. We have kept ourselves out of the system for far too long and that is why they are running all over us.
Politicians in sports administration: We have never said that politicians should be barred. What is important is a transparent and accountable system and a certain code they must follow.