Early return of suspended athletes awaited

The Executive Committee meeting of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) was informed on Saturday that the government was trying to get the minimum sanction possible for the six woman 400m runners so that they could still return to competition in time to stake their claims for London Olympics.

The news should come as a shock to those who believe in the independence of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and the two panels that work in association with it, the National Anti-Doping Disciplinary panel and the National Anti-Doping Appeal panel.

The doping cases of Mandeep Kaur, Ashwini A.C., Sini Jose, Jauna Murmu, Tiana Mary Thomas and Priyanka Panwar, are awaiting final orders from the Dinesh Dayal-headed hearing panel. The panel has reserved its order which could come any day now.

So far, there had been no indication, in previous cases, that the government or its agencies could even be attempting to influence the disciplinary proceedings but the statement by a key AFI official at Saturday's meeting may now give rise to speculation.

The fact that almost everyone concerned is keen to see the return of the six women at the earliest is, however, well known. Many believe, without any foundation though, that the women's 4x400m relay team could have a medal chance in London.


The keenness of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in seeing a quick return of the top quarter-milers could be based on this erroneous assumption.

What could be the earliest? Will the girls be able to compete in the Olympics, as they have kept insisting they would through these past few months? A complete exoneration on the ‘excuse' of contaminated supplements is not possible under the rules. Reduction, if any, depending on several factors, can only be up to a maximum of half of the normal suspension period. That means one year.

Mandeep and Murmu were tested in the last week of May; the others during mid-June and end-June. The suspensions will run from provisional suspension dates, meaning from around the last week of June for most of them.

At least Mandeep and Murmu, since they are ‘international-level' athletes, if not others, will require to undergo four re-instatement tests, spread out by three months each, including one for all substances just before re-entering competition. The qualification period ends on July 2. By then the team should have run enough international races to be able to show two races, the average timing of which should come out among the top 16 teams in the world for ensuring qualification.

Tough job

This is indeed a tough job. Even though the coaches are talking about a fairly decent second string quartet being prepared, unless these top six return to the track there is no chance of the team clocking the kind of timings required to gain a top-16 berth.

The six runners, reportedly training at the NIS, Patiala, even if they return by June 30 next year, may find it too late to help the team qualify. In 2008, India had an average of 3:30.42 from two races that earned it the 15th qualification slot out of 16 that made the Beijing grade.

A scratch Indian combination including K. Mrudula and Tintu Luka timed 3:44.17 while coming fourth in the Asian championships in Kobe. That is the best timing India has in an international meet in 2011.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 3:00:00 AM |

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