For the first time in the history of the Arjuna, the sports ministry had to put on hold one of the awards hours before President Pranab Mukherjee was supposed to hand them over.
The country was due to honour one of its leading athletes Renjith Maheshwary on Saturday evening at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, overlooking the fact that he had failed a dope test in 2008. But things changed after HT revealed the triple-jumper’s tainted past.
According to the rules, sportspersons who have failed a dope test are not eligible for the Arjuna award. Sports minister Jitendra Singh ordered an inquiry.
“I have ordered an inquiry. There is a due diligence process that has to be followed. But I am expecting a report by Monday or latest by Tuesday,” he said after the Sports Awards ceremony.
“It is extremely unfortunate that Renjith’s award has to be put on hold and that too on the day of the ceremony. I wanted the inquiry to be over before the awards function but there wasn’t enough time,” the minister added.
Maheshwary, it was learnt was told not to attend the function, and wait for further instructions. The Sports Authority of India officials have told Maheswary that if he comes clean following the inquiry, he would be presented with the Arjuna on a later date.
It was immediately not known how long it would take to conduct a thorough probe into the episode and find out exactly how Maheshwary’s name got the nod of the selection panel. It would also be interesting to know how the screening committee constituted mostly of SAI officials overlooked Maheshwary’s past.
After the ceremony, the ministry issued a statement confirming the inquiry and stated that the athletics federation was silent on the issue whether the athlete was guilty or not. Repeated efforts to contact top officials of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) proved futile.