Like the state of the country and the mood of its people, which swings wildly from ecstasy to despair, the story of Indian sport is no different.
Cricket is an elixir people happily consume, even if it is poison at times, while more demanding and better known international sports are littered with scams and administrative corruption rather than on-field achievements. What stands out in this vast unfathomable sea of hopelessness are stories of people swimming against the tide to compete with, and even beat, the best in the world.
Saina Nehwal or Abhinav Bindra may be exceptions, but of late we started believing a revolution was taking place in Indian athletics, especially if the performance of the women in the Commonwealth and Asian Games were an indication.
The legend of Milkha Singh draws sustenance as much on his fourth-place finish in the Rome Olympics as from his gold-winning run in the Cardiff Commonwealth Games — the lone champion for India until Delhi 2010, where everything changed. Or so we believed.
Flattered to deceive
The image of Mandeep Kaur running like there was no tomorrow, her mouth opening and closing like a piston as she anchored India's sensational 4x400 metre relay gold is one of the unforgettable moments from the Delhi Games last year.
Yet, today, revelations that three out of the four runners from that golden quartet were on performance-enhancing drugs have shattered the hope of a great athletics future for India.
When athletes achieve timings far above their best, doubts always crop up about the fairness of the results. Even more so in India, given our drug-tainted history involving athletics and weightlifting. However, living in denial, we ignored our suspicions as we watched these athletes redeem the 2010 Commonwealth Games somewhat by helping us forget about scandals and money-laundering.
It is naive to presume that when the administrators are self-seeking leeches, those in whose glory they seek refuge in would remain untouched by their treachery. When winning absolves us all of our crimes, why would anyone not be tempted to use foul methods?
Who do you blame for the mess?
It has been shown worldwide that whenever athletes have been caught of a wrongdoing, they have been aided by people desperate to wield power. The Italian czar and head of the world athletics body in the 1980s, Primo Nebiolo, was famous for his mafia links. Closer home, we have our own Nebiolos as well. Some of them are already behind bars. That you may call justice, but when athletes themselves become part of a larger design of winning at any cost, whom do you punish? It's a guilt that should weigh heavy on the collective conscience of a nation.