“We cannot stop anyone from coaching any athlete,” said the Director-General of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Gopal Krishna, on Wednesday.

He was answering questions related to suspended dope offenders being extended facilities at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala, in violation of the World Anti-Doping Code and provisions in the UNESCO Convention against Doping in Sports.

“We don’t support suspended athletes; we don’t give financial support. But we cannot stop athletes from utilising the facilities (at SAI centres).

“An athlete has to have training facilities. The Delhi High Court order also says so,” said Krishna as he defended the decision to provide training facilities to suspended athletes A.C. Ashwini and Mandeep Kaur at Patiala.

“No orders have been issued to assign any coach (to these athletes),” Krishna said when his attention was drawn to the training being given to the suspended athletes by Ukrainian coach Anatoli Varda and Indian coach N. Ramesh at the NIS.

That coaches can provide what would amount to “private training” during a National camp within the premises of the country’s top-rated sports institute, which runs entirely on government funds, may pose an issue not just to the Union Sports Ministry but also to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Revised draft Code

For, in the revised draft Code that should come into effect from January 1, 2015 when approved, the WADA has proposed changes to bring in “training camp funded by a governmental agency” and “any sporting activity funded by a governmental agency” to buttress the existing clause that prohibits suspended athletes participating in a training camp organised by his/ her National federation or club.

“If a suspended athlete can come into a national training camp, get coaching from the same set of coaches who are training the campers along with the rest of the selected athletes, this cannot be considered as private coaching,” said an international athlete.

Asked about the existing procedure of the SAI evicting dope-offenders from SAI centres following a ‘positive’ report, Krishna said this would only mean government funding not being given to such athletes.

Asked whether the Delhi High Court order, following an appeal by four of the six suspended 400m runners last March was not related to preparations for the London Olympics alone, Krishna said: “No, it was all-pervasive. Even if there was no High Court order we would have allowed athletes to utilise the facilities.”

This is what Justice Vipin Sanghi’s order of March 30, 2012 stated in respect of one of the grievances of the athletes: “The second grievance of the petitioners is in relation to complete denial of every facility and opportunity to the petitioners to even practice and train for the forthcoming Olympics to be held in London in July-August, 2012, even though, by then the one year of the petitioners’ ineligibility would expire in terms of the order of the Appeal Panel.”

The one-year ban imposed by the NADA was enhanced to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in July, before the Olympics last year, on an appeal by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The decision of the ministry, at a steering committee meeting on March 5, 2012, is also contrary to what Krishna has now propounded.

It had decided that in view of the NADA rules and the UNESCO Convention, the athletes “would not be allowed to train at SAI centres…”

A subsequent meeting perforce had to change this stand following the court order. The court order also asked the government and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to take a “conscious decision” regarding the extent of support to be given to the athletes.

To date neither the government nor the federation has conveyed this decision to the court even though three hearings have taken place. The next hearing is scheduled for May 21.

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