The admission by Athletics Federation of India (AFI) chief Adille Sumariwala that doping “could be prevalent” in Indian athletics has sent alarm bells ringing, especially in the Olympic year.
Sumariwala, who was re-elected AFI president till 2019 last week, told HT, “For fear of being caught, some of the athletes are not attending the national camp where frequent testing is done.” He was raising doubts about the performance of top 100 and 200m sprinters in the season’s first domestic competition beginning April 28.
Sumariwala, who is a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said on the sidelines of the AFI annual general body meeting, “Athletes are not able to repeat their best at the international level. There is something wrong.”
The performance graph of top athletes is not heartening and no corrective measures are forthcoming from the federation. Two performances during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which should have become templates for bigger achievements, simply petered out.
The men’s 4x100m relay team, which won bronze clocking 38.89 sec and set the national record, slipped at the Guangzhou Asian Games a month later.
The AFI, however, remained silent.
AFI’s mission ‘podium finish’ was launched much before the 2010 CWG and top sprinters were sent to Ukraine for training. The results were good but the relay team has come up with just one noteworthy performance --- in the last six years. The team couldn’t achieve the 2012 London Games qualification, either.
Despite pedestrian performances by sprinters, the AFI re-appointed Ukraine sprint coach Dimtry Vinakyin in 2014, who had prepared the team for the 2010 CWG but quit in 2013. Vinakyin failed to raise the standard of the team and it didn’t achieve the qualifying standard for the Incheon Asian Games.
Much of it has to do with athletes who are not reporting to camps. The AFI discussed it during the executive body meeting in October last, but no action was taken.
A leading sprinter retorted, “The federation has the power to recommend names of athletes to the National Anti-Doping Agency for out-of-competition testing. Why paint all athletes with the same brush. Top athletes have tested positive in national camps also.”
The frustration within the AFI at not being able to set its house in order was evident when Sumariwala said, “We can’t win a low-key event, what will happen in major competition.” He was referring to the South Asian Games at Guwahati in February where India missed the relay gold.” He hinted it was unlikely the 4x100m relay team would earn a Rio berth.
In 2010, top sprinters weren’t able to repeat the Delhi Commonwealth Games (October 6-12) performance at the Guangzhou Asian Games (November 12-27)
Semis: Abdul Najeeb Qureshi 10.40 secs out of final
Semis: Dharambir Singh 21.20 secs out of final
Final: Rahamatulla Molla, Suresh Sathya, Shameer Mon, Abdul Najeeb Qureshi 38.89 secs (NR) win bronze.
Abdul Najeeb Qureshi 10.46 secs didn’t qualify
Krishna Kumar Rane 10.62 didn’t qualify
Final: Suresh Sathya finished sixth with 21.07secs, but disqualified for testing positive for nandrolone prior to Games.
Final: Rahamatulla Molla, Suresh Sathya, Shameer Mon and Abdul Najeeb Qureshi finished fourth with 39.10 secs, but later disqualified as Sathya failed a dope test.