Medal-winners at the Inter-Railway weightlifting championships used banned substances to lift barbells and not just their strength at the recently concluded departmental tournament in Kolkata.
The positive results - eight in total - are astounding given the meet had nothing big at stake except winning points to secure the overall championship. Doping, it appears, is so rooted in the sport that even small-time tournaments see the athletes juiced up.
The number of positive cases, says a national coach, is a big blow to the discipline and all the cheats now face a two-year provisional suspension. Interestingly, this is the first time such a large number of lifters have failed the test this season.
During the Kolkata competition, the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) had collected as many as 25 urine samples from among the medallists.
All the cheats have tested positive for anabolic steroids, but it was not immediately known whether someone had failed the test for the second time.
The coach said it was highly unlikely anyone would have failed the test for the second time, as many top players had skipped the meet when the news of NADA collecting samples had reached the venue. Some of the participants even under-performed to evade tests.
As per the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) rule, each offender will have to cough up Rs 50,000.
Lifters apart, the Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) too faces suspension because, as per the IWF rules, the state or board whose two or more lifters fail dope test in one calendar year get disaffiliated for two years.
The Kolkata episode will also dent the IWF's image further, as, despite increasing the fine on the cheats from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000, it has hardly been able to deter lifters from using banned substances.
Punjab and the Police Sports Promotion Board had faced similar bans earlier, but the lifters went on to represent other states in the national championships, thus defeating the whole idea of punishing the state unit or department.