Renjith Maheshwary may deserve the Arjuna, but he does not qualify. The triple-jumper has himself admitted that he had violated the Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) code by consuming a prohibited drug (ephedrine, a stimulant) during the National Athletic Championships in 2008.
The drug according to him was prescribed by a doctor when he had fever and cold prior to the championships. His fever subsided but the headache has returned five years on.
The controversy was avoidable. The eligibility criteria for Arjuna states that sportspersons found positive for use of banned drugs will not be eligible.
It does not mention the quantum of punishment, if any, awarded to the athlete who tested positive. The Wada rule too stipulates that the athlete is solely responsible for any banned substance found in his body during tests.
There is also a clause in the code that if an athlete can establish before the disciplinary panel how the substance entered the body, then the quantum of punishment could be reduced. But that will not absolve the athlete from the offence.
Thus it will not make him eligible for the Arjuna award, if rules are followed. Here, unlike the Wada, which in cases other than life bans, allows athletes to come back after serving the suspension, the Arjuna Award rules have no provision for a second chance.
American sprinter Justin Gatlin won the 100m gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Later he was tested positive and was banned for two years. He came back to win 100m bronze in 2012 London Olympics and silver at the last month's World Championships in Moscow.
But if he was an Indian, he would not have been eligible for the Arjuna. But then, rules are rules and the ministry has to decide whether to follow them or ignore them.
Two things can, however, go in Maheshwary's favour. The case of Aparna Popat, former national badminton champion who was justifiably given the Arjuna though she had tested positive for a stimulant which she had inadvertently taken for a common cold argues well for Maheshwary.
The other is, if Maheswary can prove that his sample was tested at the National Dope Test Laboratory, Delhi, before the NDTL got Wada accreditation in September 2008.
The Arjuna Award rule states that "sportspersons found positive for use of drugs banned by the International Olympic Committee (now Wada) in any laboratory accredited by International Olympic Committee (now Wada) will not be eligible for the award".
Mahesawary's was a case of cold blooded murder by a 'common cold'. The post mortem report will show whether his Arjuna was killed by the virus or by the Athletic Federation of India, one of the deadly virus which inhabits our sports.
I believe the ministry should keep aside moral turpitude and look into the legality of the case.
The author is the president of Indian Federation of Sports Medicine and former director (SAI)