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Santhi's disgrace shocks coach, friends

india Updated: Dec 18, 2006 13:23 IST

The failure of India's silver medal 800-metre winner in the Doha Asian games — S Santhi — to pass a gender test has sent many questions sprinting in the air.

Sports medicine specialists in Tamil Nadu, Santhi's home state, have the right to seek a review by an experts panel, but it is not known if this will be done by the Indian authorities.

Santhi's failure to clear a gender test came even as the Tamil Nadu government was preparing to confer on her state honours Monday.

Her coach P Nagarajan, a member of the Prime Sports Akademy of the St Joseph's College of Engineering, said: "The gender issue is such a sensitive one that it is to be dealt with delicately."

"I am not a medical professional, I am a coach and it was not possible for me to make such a judgement," he added.

Lack of proper nutrition, according to gynecologists, can retard the growth of female hormones and affect menstruation cycles. Santhi belonged to a very poor household, which was always short of adequate meals, he added.

"I have known her for two years. As she went to a girls school and a girls college, there was no reason to suspect her sex," said Nagarajan.

In 2005, Santhi had won the 800m in the Asian championship in Incheon, Korea. In August she won the 1,500m gold and 800m silver in the South Asian games in Colombo.

CK Valson, the joint secretary of the Tamil Nadu Athletics Association, said: "There was never a reason to suspect Santhi. She has been regularly participating in several athletics meets."

Santhi's friend KN Priya, an international 100m hurdles champion, said: "Santhi participated in the South Asian Federation games and Asian track and field events and won medals."

She pointed out that Santhi had gone through all the tests each time. Santhi's behaviour has never been any different from any other girl's at the academy, where 200 athletes are trained, Priya added.

The Sports Authority of India conducted various tests before the athletes left for the Doha games and Santhi's tests were all clear, her estrogen and progesterone (hormone) levels as much as it should normally be, asserts her trainer.

Santhi spent the last two years in various pre-game camps of the Indian Athletics Federation. Her parents - M Soundarrajan and S Manimekelai - are brick kiln workers in the village of Kathakkurichi, near Pudukottai, 500 kms south of Chennai.

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