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India confident no drug cheats in Beijing

india Updated: Jul 21, 2008 13:53 IST

AFP
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India is keeping a strict check on Olympic hopefuls to ensure the country will not be humiliated by drug cheats, sports minister Manohar Gill said on Monday.

India were subjected to international scrutiny after their athletes were caught in doping scandals at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.

Indian weightlifters have especially been dogged by controversies in recent years with the national federation forced to serve a one-year ban after the Athens Olympics for persistent dope infringements.

Gill said a few sportspersons had tainted the reputation of the entire country and it was time for strict action against dope offenders.

"There have been instances when some people have been let-off in the past," Gill, a former Indian chief election commissioner, told AFP in an interview.

"That was shameful, but this time we will not allow any doping scandal. We are keeping en eye on all athletes.

"We want to send out the message that no one will be spared if proved guilty," he said.

Gill said India, set to host the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, would soon have an accredited dope testing laboratory in place.
"The laboratory will boast of world class facilities and it will be headed by the most respected experts," he said.

Doubts were raised over the state-run Sports Authority of India's Dope Control Centre in New Delhi after it cleared two lifters who tested positive in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

In 2004, it also cleared two women weightlifters, Sanamacha Chanu and Pratima Kumari, who subsequently failed dope tests at the Athens Olympics.

Gill said the new lab will be functional by next month and a national doping control process will also be put in place.

The minister also lamented the hockey team's inability to qualify for the Olympics for the first time and blamed international apathy for the game's rapid decline in the country.

"We have been a victim of sports imperialism," he said. "Rules and playing surface were changed to suit other countries. The off-side rule favours muscular players from these countries.

"Astro-turfs are good for countries where it rains persistently, not for New Delhi or Lahore where it is dry, scorching heat. But still we have managed to be competitive.

"Of course it hurts that we are not there in Beijing. It is a sorry situation but we can always fight back and win a gold medal again."

India, who won the last of their eight Olympic golds in the western-boycotted Moscow Games in 1980, failed to book a Beijing ticket after losing in a qualifying tournament in Chile in March.

Gill also said the government was lending its full support to ensure a successful 2010 Commonwealth Games.

"We have undertaken a responsibility and we will ensure one of the best Games ever. The government and Olympic association are working in close co-ordination and harmony towards that goal."