As the London Olympics draw closer, the task of assembling a competitive women's 4x400m squad is becoming tougher for the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).
Facing a one-year ban, the nation's top-six women quarter-milers were expected to return to the track in June, but that's ruled out as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has filed an appeal against the National Anti Doping Agency Appeal's (NADAP) ruling in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The latest development will delay the comeback of the dope offenders, including Asian Games gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji, and they will not be able to compete in the Olympic qualification events.
Secondly, the performance of the current 400m sprinters doesn't point to a smooth passage for the squad to the London Games.
In the second Indian Grand Prix at Patiala on Thursday, the women's 400m event was bereft of depth. The eventual winner and India's best hope, MR Poovama, recorded 54.36 seconds. Ratandeep Kaur finished second with 55.82s followed by K Sowjanya (56.12s) and Priyanka Mondal (57.52s).
Despite the lacklustre performance, the AFI is hopeful of the team winning a ticket to London. "The athletes will come within the stipulated time before the deadline," said ML Dogra, director, AFI.
It's easier said than done.