The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is in a dilemma as it is not able to justify the monthly salary of $5000 (Rs 3.15 lakh), excluding boarding and lodging, which the sports ministry is paying Ukrainian sprinting coach Dmitry Vinaykin. The coach was appointed in March last year to help the men's 4x100m relay team achieve the 2016 Rio Games qualification mark.
However, trouble started for AFI when only three of the 10 shortlisted sprinters reported for the national preparatory camp which started in Bangalore in February. It has not just put a question mark on AFI's logic of fielding a national relay team, it also reflects poorly on the national federation's planning.
Dharamvir Singh, winner of the 100m and 200m gold at the National Games in Kerala, is among those who have failed to report. In fact, the top seven sprinters at the Games have not shown any interest in joining the camp.
With the Asian Championship scheduled in June, the AFI is making another bid to put its sprinting project back on track, warning the 'absconders' of strict action. "Athletes have been told that if they fail to attend the camp again, they face a possible two-year ban," said AFI secretary general CK Valson. "This is to discipline athletes who don't give a valid reason for skipping the camp."
However, all athletes who have not reported for the camp, apart from sprinters, will be allowed to compete in the senior Federation Cup beginning in Mangalore on Friday. The season's first meet is also a qualification event for the Asian Championship.
From a purely monetary point of view, the AFI is giving the foreign coach $1650 (Rs 1.03 lakh) per month to train each of the three sprinters. But despite that, the performance of athletes isn't encouraging.
Five years back, Abdul Nazib Qureshi had equalled the national record of 10.30 sec in 100m. Since then Qureshi, who is one of the trainees at the camp, has done precious little of note. Asked about his plans for the season, he said, "I plan to do well."
The appointment of Vinaykin has once again shown AFI's penchant for experts from the erstwhile Soviet bloc. Vinaykin was first appointed to prepare athletes for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The men's 4x100m relay team had then won bronze, clocking 38.89 seconds. Thereafter, the team has been far from impressive. In fact, it failed to achieve the 2012 London qualification mark. In 2013, Vinaykin quit the national camp, but was reappointed in 2014.
Under his tutelage, the quartet failed to achieve the qualification mark for the Incheon Asian Games.
Vinaykin continues to enjoy the support of the AFI, though he has hardly done anything of note in the last 12 months.
An aggrieved athlete said on condition of anonymity, "If under him we couldn't qualify for the Asian Games, how can we win a Rio berth?"