In a new twist to the Indian weightlifting selection controversy, Shailaja Pujari's sister Ambika on Wednesday accused the Sports Ministry of influencing the trials to ensure a Beijing Olympics berth for Monika Devi.
Ambika said the IWF's decision at the selection re-trials at Bangalore on Tuesday was influenced by some "information sent by Ministry" because of which Shailaja lost the race to Beijing Olympics to L Monika Devi.
"The Federation is not giving permission to Shailaja to speak to media that is why I am calling you. If it was a straight selection why should not she talk to media?" Ambika told PTI.
She said IWF Secretary General BR Gulati told her that Ministry had restricted the selection committee through some guidelines after which Monika was selected for the Beijing Games.
"Gulati sir said the Ministry had sent some information to the selection committee. Even government-appointed observer Chaiya Adak said 'I don't know how selection happened'," Ambika said.
"My sister (Shailaja) lifted 12 kg more than Monika and also ranks higher than her in the world. Shailaja is ninth and Monika is 15th in the world ranking while they were seventh and 11th in the previous list. Ranking has to be considered when you go for such an important event," she said.
PTI learnt from a federation official that the Ministry had issued some "restrictive guidelines" to be strictly followed during the trials.
The official admitted that Shailaja (69 kg) indeed faired better than Monika (79kg) in the re-trials in Bangalore on Tuesday.
"Yes, she lifted 12 kg more than Monika. The International Weightlifting Federation-approved Sinclair formula was used in the trials which applies for all weight categories together and Shailaja came out to be the best according to that," said the source.
The controversy started when Shailaja, who has served out a two-year ban for a doping offence, was alleged to have paid a bribe of Rs five lakh to Gulati for her selection ahead of Monika in the internal selection trials after the International Weightlifting Federation awarded a quota place to India for points earned by a team and not an individual during the Senior Asian Championships in Japan in April.
The alleged bribe scandal prompted the Sports Ministry to inquire into the incident and hold a re-trial between Shailaja and Monika to select the final name.