Karnam Malleswari's bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics had raised expectations that India would emerge a powerhouse in weightlifting. The country appeared to be on the right track as it fared well at the Manchester (2002) and Melbourne (2006) Commonwealth Games.
Thereafter, a dope cloud enveloped the sport and the situation worsened to an extent that the country could not participate at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Subsequently, India were banned again and the international federation imposed a heavy fine of $500,000 (Rs 2.33 crore).
Finally, the Sports Ministry and Organising Committee intervened last month and the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) was able to pay the fine, paving the way for the lifters' participation in the Commonwealth Games.
"The Games will provide us with a platform from where a good showing can place us among the top lifting nations again," said chief national coach, Harnam Singh.
"After the dope episode, the federation has had to work hard to make the sport dope free. We have an almost new team and if all goes well, we will win around 10-12 medals," he added.
Out of the seven gold at stake in the women's section, India will be fighting for six. The country has skipped one weight category — 63kg — and fielded two lifters in 48kg. In the men's section, the lifters will be competing for six out of the eight gold at stake. The hosts will not be participating in 94kg and 105 kg, and have fielded two lifters each in 56kg and 62kg.
"We didn't have good lifters in certain weight categories, so we decided to skip them. The strength of our squad is 15, including seven women. We can win up to 15 medals but target is 12 gold," the coach said.
We don't want this here, please
In 2006, if the Melbourne Exhibition Centre reverberated with clangs of yellow metal for India, the backstage was smeared with trails of steroids and stimulants. If the bounty of three gold, five silver and bronze made India proud, the four positive cases (both in-and-out-of-competition) clouded the achievement.
The biggest embarrassment was Tajinder Singh being ejected from the Commonwealth Games Village in the middle of the night. Not to mention Edwin Raju's returning positive for using a banned steroid.
The quiet exit of the lifters was bemusing. Shailaja Pujari was dropped from the team after returning positive in India, Prameelavalli mysteriously never reached Melbourne, Tejinder was ejected while Edwin was evacuated.
This was not the only Games where Indians failed a dope test. Even in Manchester (2002), India suffered because gold medallist Satheesha Rai and silver medallist Madasamy were stripped of their medals after they failed dope tests.
With India hosting the Games, the lifters can ill afford to repeat a Melbourne or Manchester, that too after serving a suspension and paying a hefty fine to the international body.
Though officials believe it will be a dope-free Games, they have their fingers crossed as they don't know what the lifters will do!