It's been a disastrous year for Indian weightlifting. Believe it or not 17 sportspersons tested positive for illegal drugs in the year. And to compound matters, India went unrepresented at major international events as well. To add to the embarrassment, the international lifting body has refused to help India in its attempts to find a foreign coach.
On top of this, two local associations, Uttar Pradesh and the All India Police Control Board, received year-long bans from the Indian Weightlifting Federation for returning positive tests.
Eight years after Karnam Malleswari became the first lifter and the first Indian woman to pick up an Olympic medal, India had no lifter at Beijing. And not just the Olympics, India even failed to compete, for the first time, in the junior and senior Asian and Commonwealth Championships in Korea and Cyprus, respectively, despite getting clearance from the Government.
And just to add to the general apathy of the 48 lifters who are part of the core group for the Commonwealth Games preparations, only three reported to the camp held in Patiala from December 4 to 31, 2008. Some believe that was because more would have flunked out-of-competition testing.
There was worse embarrassment. India desperately need a foreign coach but the International Weightlifting Federation refused to help. Apparently tired of the mismanagement going on in India, the international federation wrote to the IWF and said they would not recommend India to any foreign coach.
And that was expected. A few months ago, the IWF approached international coach Imre Zsuga to coach India. But the IWF's casual approach put him off. "IWF carried on negotiations with me about the contract but two months was not enough for them to write a pattern of the job. We exchanged mails, but they were not able to send me anything in black and white," Zsuga told the Hindustan Times by email. "I don't see a great future for Indian weightlifting."
According to the Indian Weightlifting Federation, the number of positive tests has increased because it become more strict in dealing with drug cheats.
"We have not been lenient with the cheats. We have increased our vigilance and no dope accused has been sealed."