The sports ministry's recent decision to hike the daily allowance for elite athletes to Rs 650 is an eyewash as sportspersons continue to get little or no food supplements during national camps, leading them to seek out dubious shops or fall prey to unscrupulous characters.
This startling revelation came to light when HT spoke to Commonwealth Championship triple gold-medallist judoka, Navjot Chana, who exposed SAI's carefully guarded secret.
"The food supplements supplied (by SAI) during camps are just not sufficient. We can't sustain our rigorous training with this kind of supply. So, we are forced to buy them from the market," said Chana. "At our recent camp, we got substandard supplements packed in polythene bags, which most of us threw away."
An HT investigation has also revealed that of the R 650 earmarked for an elite athlete's diet per day, R 250 is for supplements and energy drinks, but in essence, they get either no supplements or supplements for just one-fifth of the total amount sanctioned. The eight elite athletes caught in the dope net might not be entirely wrong when they say that they are in this mess because of the food supplements they purchased from the market.
The story is not confined to judo; it's being repeated in camps all over the country. The men's wrestling team training at SAI's Sonepat Centre is not getting any food supplements. The last time they received any was during the Commonwealth Games preparatory camps.
During the two-month judo camp, which concluded in Bhopal last week, players were given just 60 capsules of Kavitol and one kg of protein each. The protein was packaged in substandard polythene bags.
The situation of gymnastics and swimming in Delhi is even worse. Right under the nose of the SAI headquarters, they are being deprived of supplements each single day. The only thing extra apart from food the women's hockey campers got during their stay in the Capital was glucose, while their male counterparts at the SAI Southern Centre in Bangalore too slogged it out without their daily quota of energy products.
In comparison, the women weightlifters at the Bangalore campus and male lifters, women boxers, athletes and wrestlers at NIS, Patiala are marginally better off. They get supplements worth R 50 per day.
The director of SAI centre, Bhopal, RK Naidu said, "We have sent the demand of the judo campers to the head office."
The executive director, NIS Patiala, LS Ranawat, said, "Scientist from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad were in Patiala last month and they interacted with national coaches of respective disciplines. The coaches have given their supplements demands and we have sent the recommendations to the head office. Once we get clearance, we will increase the supply."