There were several departures from set norms in this year’s National Sports and Adventure awards function. It was held two days after the National Sports Day, August 29, and the venue was the Durbar Hall instead of the Ashoka Hall inside the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The run-up to the eagerly-awaited event was laced with unpleasant issues over selection of the awardees.
As if that was not enough, triple jumper Renjith Maheswary was sidelined at the last minute following reportage of the athlete testing positive for banned a stimulant (ephedrine) during the 48th Open National Athletics Meet at Kochi (in 2008) and being suspended for three months.
Despite all this, it was an occasion to celebrate and enjoy for the privileged lot who had been chosen for the National recognitions.
Ace marksman Ronjan Sodhi, who was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, and star cricketer Virat Kohli, who got the Arjuna award, were the centre of attention and received the maximum applause as they walked up to President Pranab Mukherjee to receive their trophies.
Olympian archer Chekrovolu Swuro, the first Naga athlete to get the Arjuna award, said the honour would inspire youngsters in Nagaland.
Apart from a medal and a citation, the Khel Ratna award carries a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh. Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand awards carry a statuette, a citation and a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.
Meanwhile, Maheswary’s absence at the awards ceremony fuelled speculation. Union Sports Minister Jitendra Singh said, “His award has been withheld for the moment. An enquiry will be conducted Sports Secretary P.K. Deb and we will get the result sooner than later.”
“There are also conflicting reports that Maheswary was indeed suspended pending enquiry but was not found guilty of a doping offence in the subsequent enquiry,” said a Sports Ministry release.
“The National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) has no records of the case since it pertains to 2008 and NADA came into being in 2009. The records lie with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), which has not been able to confirm or deny as yet that Maheswary was indeed guilty of a doping offence and was punished.”
“Taking cognisance of the reports and keeping in view the provisions of the Arjuna award scheme, under which sportspersons who have tested positive in dope tests for banned substances cannot be considered for the award, the Ministry of Sports has decided to withhold the Arjuna award in respect of Maheswary till completion of enquiries in this matter.”
The awardees: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award: Ronjan Sodhi (shooting).
Arjuna award: Chekrovolu Swuro (archery), Renjith Maheswary (athletics), P.V. Sindhu (badminton), Kavita Chahal (boxing), Rupesh Shah (billiards and snooker), Virat Kohli (cricket), Abhijeet Gupta (chess), Gaganjeet Bhullar (golf), Saba Anjum (hockey), Rajkumari Rathore (shooting), Joshna Chinnappa (squash), Mouma Das (table tennis), Neha Rathi, Dharmender Dalal (wrestling), Amit Kumar Saroha (para-athletics).
Dronacharya award: Poornima Mahato (archery), Mahavir Singh (boxing), Narinder Singh Saini (hockey), Lifetime achievement: K.P. Thomas (athletics), Raj Singh (wrestling).
Dhyan Chand award: Mary D’Souza Sequeira (athletics), Syed Ali (hockey), Anil Mann (wrestling), Girraj Singh (para-athletics).
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar: Community sports identification and nurturing of budding young talents: Dr. U.K. Mishra (Founder President of National Sports Academy, Allahabad); Financial Support for Sports Excellence: Services Sports Control Board; Establishment and management of sports academies of excellence: P. Gopi Chand Academy of Badminton (Hyderabad); Employment of sportspersons and sports welfare measures: Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB).
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Trophy: Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, 2010-11; Punjabi University, Patiala, 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Awards 2012: Basanta Singh Roy, Major Ranveer Singh Jamwal (land adventure), Lt. Cdr. Abhilash Tomy (water adventure), Naib Subedar Parmjit Singh Sidhu (air adventure), Prem Singh and Hira Ram (lifetime achievement).