The first floor of the plush B-53 apartment on Babar Road, at the heart of the capital, saw feverish activity on Wednesday. Residents said they had never seen so many OB vans in the neighbourhood.
Upstairs, CRPF havildar Monika Devi, her husband, Santosh Kumar, Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) secretary, BR Gulati and 2006 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, Kunjarani Devi, sat in a crowded 12x12 room trying to maintain their sanity in sweltering heat worsened by 40-odd cameramen who surrounded them.
“I am innocent…I have been framed by senior SAI bosses, who did not want me to go to Beijing. I have cleared at least 30 dope tests before. How come just hours before I was scheduled to leave for Beijing, news is flashed on TV that I have tested positive,” said Monika, reacting to reports of her testing positive for nandrolone during an out-of-competition test at the Dope Control Centre in New Delhi on July 29.
News of the failed test broke late on Tuesday and Monika, who was supposed to compete in the 69kg category as India’s only weightlifter in Beijing, was prevented from taking the flight.
“They (SAI officials) are all thieves…just because I got into the cleaning act and decided to do away with corrupt SAI coaches, they are now after Monika. SAI’s executive director (TEAMS), RK Naidu, and (SAI coach) Hansa Sharma among others have all ganged up against Monika and implicated her,” said Gulati.
After Gulati had replaced former IWF secretary Balbir Singh Bhatia, he was told by the Sports Ministry to clean up the doping mess. The first thing he did was remove SAI coaches including Hansa and Tamal Selvam, associated with the federation.
Soon after, Gulati was accused by Monika of accepting a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from another lifter, Andhra Pradesh’s Shailaja Pujari, to get her on the flight to Beijing. The Ministry then ordered a re-trial on July 15 in Bangalore where Monika beat Shailaja, after losing to the latter in the first.
“Shailaja, her coach, the Andhra association secretary and SAI officials — Naidu and project officer for lifting Satish Rana — have all ganged up against me…I want SAI to conduct a fresh test. I’m sure I’ll come out clean. I will not go for the ‘B’ sample test, as it will simply be re-testing the ‘tampered’ sample. On July 28, when they came to collect my urine sample in Bangalore, I told them the sample-collection bottle was not sealed. Still they asked me to give the sample,” said Monika. “Fly me to Beijing and my dope test scheduled for tomorrow will come out negative,” she asserted.
Interestingly, Monika was one of the seven lifters who ran away from the Bangalore centre in 2005 when World Anti-Doping Agency officials came to collect their urine samples. The lifters were docked $5000 each for the action.
Pointing out it was nothing but SAI’s mischief, Gulati said: “No lifter will ever take the salt when he or she knows it could be detected even after six months. The substance Monika is being accused of taking can remain in the body for two years.” The Sports Ministry’s joint secretary, Injeti Srinivas, said the government wanted to clean up the sport. Asked about Monika’s accusation against the SAI officials, he said: “Every athlete caught for dope plays the blame game…there is a procedure (for appeal) and I would suggest Monika follows that.” On Naidu’s alleged involvement, Srinivas said the SAI official had no locus-standi. “He is not involved with dope testing in any way,” he said.
Monika later rushed to the SAI headquarters and demanded the report of her dope test. Naidu said, “We are not authorised to give the report to players…we’ll only forward it to the IWF.” In a late night development, Shailaja Pujari said she was hopeful of replacing Monika Devi.