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Coach stands by Monika Devi

india Updated: Aug 07, 2008 00:00 IST

He may have been replaced as the weightlifting coach to Beijing following protest over his credentials, but Deodutt Sharma on Wednesday stood firmly behind his ward, Monika Devi, who has been withdrawn from the Olympics contingent after failing a dope test.

Refusing to believe that the Manipuri lifter took anabolic salt for which she was tested positive, Sharma, who also coaches the Army, said perhaps she had been made a scapegoat.

"Every sportperson with basic knowledge knows that the particular salt is banned... Only a fool will take such things knowingly. Having worked with Monika Devi, for months now, I strongly disbelieve this."

"Perhaps, something has been manipulated," Sharma, who was Monika Devi's coach when the 69kg lifter achieved the Beijing mark in the Asian Championship, Japan, in April this year, told PTI from Pune.

Hours before she was to board the Beijing flight on Wednesday, Monica Devi was withdrawn from the Indian squad for failing a dope test.

Monica tested positive for anabolic salt in a test conducted in Army Sports Institute, Pune on June 29.

Adding another twist, the ASI coach, Sharma, revealed that Monika Devi was in fact tested 29 times.

"How come she was not tested positive on the earlier occasions ... But was found guilty just on the day she was to board the Beijing flight? It is hard to digest," Sharma said.

Incidentally, Sharma, who was initially appointed the weightlifting coach to accompany Monika Devi, was dumped by the federation after veteran weightlifters, including a few former Olympians, alleged that the Army coach was "dope tainted" having been involved with Edwin Raju and G Damodaran and also he did not have the credential to coach an Olympian.

Later, the IWF selected former International L Anita Chanu to accompany Monika Devi as Sharma was unceremoniously removed from the Bangalore camp.

Supporting Monika Devi, a former weightlifter said even her husband is a coach.

"Monika Devi's husband is a qualified coach... And she often trains with him. Only an insane person will take some banned substance just ahead of the Olympics," the former weightlifter said.

Monika Devi (69kg) was the sole lifter from India to have been selected for the Beijing Games.

In the pre-Olymic trial conducted by Indian Weightlifting Federation in July, this year, P Shailja of Andhra Pradesh had performed better than Monika, but the latter was chosen ahead of her for the Beijing Games.