Ashwini Akkunji, back in action after serving a two-year doping ban, finished second in the 400m trials to strengthen her chances of clinching a berth in the national women’s 4x400m relay squad for the world athletics championships, but hurdles remain.
The trials were held at Patiala on Friday to spot three runners for the six-member longer relay squad for the world meet to be held in Moscow from August 10.
However, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is yet to clear the dues of Rs 7 lakh to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) - administrative costs in the 2011 doping case -- and that might hamper Akkunji’s return to international competition.
The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) recently directed the AFI and the six women athletes who had tested positive in 2011, to pay around Rs 14 lakh to the IAAF, the administrative costs in the case which the Indian athletes lost. The federation was to contribute Rs 7 lakh with the remaining amount to be brought in by the runners.
Although the athletes paid their share, the AFI, it is learnt, has asked the world governing body to waive the amount on grounds that it was not its fault that the National Anti-doping Agency (NADA) first handed a reduced one-year ban instead of two years that led to the case.
The AFI, it is learnt, had discussed the issue with IAAF officials during the recent Asian meet held in Pune, but the federation is yet to receive any communication from the world body, an AFI official said. The federation secretary general, CK Valson, was not available for comments.
In Friday’s trials, Akkunji ran a conservative race but came second clocking 54.7 seconds (hand timing) while Nirmala was first (54.6). Anilda Thomas was third (54.7). There were five competitors and the top three are likely to get the nod of the AFI selection panel which is due to meet in Delhi today. Since all three were closely bunched, Akkunji has a good chance of making the team. Tintu Luka, Anu Mariam Jose and MR Poovamma proved themselves at the Pune meet and should be part of the squad.
Juana Murmu and Priyanka Panwar, who have also completed their two-year bans, were also expected to compete but did not turn up.