Sacked as chief coach of the Indian women’s 400m athletics team after six members failed dope tests in 2011, Ukrainian Yuri Ogorodnik is back for a second stint but with few takers this time.
Top women athletes preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympics are reluctant to accompany Yuri on a 90-day training trip to Turkey beginning in October first week.
HT has learnt the players have raised concerns that there is little point in travelling to Turkey as that nation’s athletics team has been hit by doping scandals in recent times and is ranked number two on the list of dope cheats.
“It’s always better to train in a healthy environment,” an international athlete shortlisted for the camp said.
The 2011 doping scandal had marred India’s chances of achieving the qualifying mark for the 4x400m relay at the 2012 London Olympics.
Under the new World Anti-Doping Agency rules, which came into effect from January this year, the first offence carries a four-year suspension.
“We would be happy to go for top-level competitions in Europe, but not for training on foreign soil with Yuri,” an athlete said.
Perhaps this is why, of the 12 shortlisted for the national camp in Patiala, only two were present at the beginning of this week.
Priyanka Pawar and Jauna Murmu, who were among the favourite trainees of Yuri and had failed dope tests in 2011, are also not keen to travel to Turkey.
Among those unwilling to go on the foreign trip are five Kerala athletes, including two from the PT Usha School of Athletics.
With the athletes in a rebellious mood, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has cracked the whip. In a communication to the Kerala State Athletics Association (KSAA), the national federation has threatened to suspend three athletes — Anilda Thomas, Anju R and Anju Thomas — from national and international competition if they don’t report for the camp. The AFI is also pressuring other athletes to join.
Confirming the AFI diktat, KSAA secretary MV Kutty said he did not know why the athletes hadn’t reported for the camp. “It’s a complicated situation, only the athletes know,” he said.
CK Valson, AFI secretary-general, had a different take on the poor attendance at the camp. “The athletes have taken a break after the Kolkata national meet, but they will join the camp and board the flight to Turkey.”
On its part, the sports ministry is yet to clear the Turkey trip. Besides top women athletes, the AFI also plans to send the men’s 400m team. This is the second time the AFI has shown interest in sending top athletes to Turkey. In April, the ministry had rejected the proposal as the federation had failed to mention the names of foreign coaches who were to accompany the team.