The Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) plan to utilise the services of the women 400m runners, whose two-year suspension ends in June-July, for the Asian Athletics Championships, may not take off.
Of the six runners, Mandeep Kaur and Juana Murmu’s suspension ends in June, while Ashwini Akkunji, Priyanka Panwar, Sini Jose and Tiana Mary Thomas’s two-year ban ends in July.
But chances are that none of them will be able to pass the baton in the 4x400m relay for at least this year.
“I am unfit, and will not be able to compete this year,” Mandeep Kaur told HT over the phone from Patiala.
A former national champion and India's mainstay in the one-lap event from 2006 till she tested positive in June 2011, Mandeep is suffering from back pain and has been advised rest. “I don’t know how long I will take to recover, but I am not planning to race in the coming months,” she said.
Ashwini, the 2010 Asian Games champion in 400m hurdles, too has similar plans.
“I’ve no plans to compete in hurdles this year. Maybe, I’ll switch to 400m flat,” was her response.
The participation of Juana, Priyanka, Sini and Tiana also look doubtful in the upcoming domestic competitions.
The athletes, however, didn't want to talk about the judgment of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). It has slapped a penalty of approx R7 lakh on the six runners and an equal amount on the AFI.
“We haven’t got a notice from the federation,” said Mandeep. In case the athletes don’t pay up within 30 days, by May 10, it will delay their return to the competitive events.