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IWF: Chequered past, future shock

The Sports Authority of India and its trainees could be the hardest hit if the Indian Weightlifting Federation is suspended from all international competitions for two to five years.
None | By Ajai Masand, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 30, 2006 12:35 AM IST

The Sports Authority of India (SAI), and its 1,000 odd trainees from all over the country, could be the hardest hit if the International Weightlifting Federation decides to suspend the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) from all international competitions for a period of between two to five years.

After a terse International Federation newsletter, posted on its website, suspending the IWF till the International Body’s Executive Board meeting in May, 2006, things are looking really serious for India -- and that too when the Doha Asian Games and the Beijing Olympic Games are not  far away.

The newsletter says: “Regrettably, four adverse analytical findings were reported on the occasion of doping controls carried out on the Indian National team members this year. The Indian Weightlifting Federation has been suspended, the duration of which will be decided by the International Federation Executive Board at the end of May. The four competitors concerned are, Bodari Prangel Valli, Sailaja Pujari, Edwin Raju and Tejinder Singh. Their provisional suspension will remain in force as long as all the applicable procedures have been completed.”

“I am instituting an inquiry in the conduct of the coaches and the lifters,” said SAI Director-General Ratan Watal. There is also a meeting scheduled between the IWF officials and the Sports Ministry Secretary on Thursday.

“Now, we can’t train teams in the way we used to … but we have to think beyond it (the suspension) and not completely neglect lifting,” said Watal, who also added that an anti-doping awareness programme has to be put in place as soon as possible.

It’s an irony that despite the Dope Control Centre in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium being right under the nose of the top SAI bosses, absolutely nothing has been done on the education front in the last 17 years.

When questioned whether any of the SAI coaches was involved in the doping scandal (at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games), the DG said: “I can’t say but they must be having some knowledge.

“Today, I have asked for a detailed report from Patiala where the Melbourne-bound lifting team was training, and this time we are really going to be very strict,” he said.

When asked if the SAI was contemplating severe action against the IWF officials like president HJ Dora and secretary Balbir Singh Bhatia, including banning them from the various SAI stadia premises, Watal just said: “There are a lot of things to be tightened further as well as procedures strengthened.”

Another SAI official was of the view that with a long ban on the IWF looming large, probably it would not be worth pumping money into lifting, as none of the teams would be able to participate in international competitions due to the impending ban.

“The SAI should suspend all activity and put the money into development of other sports,” he said.

Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi when contacted only said: “Let us see what happens in the next two-three days.” None of the IWF officials -- Dora and Bhatia who had proclaimed before leaving for Melbourne that all the lifters were clean -- were available for comment.

Going into hiding is the best way to evade uncomfortable questions. Well, that’s what the Indian officials always seek refuge in -- go underground and let the controversy die a
natural death.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere at the Nehru Stadium lifting hall was that of complete bewilderment. “I think I will have to leave the sport and look for some other options,” said a lifter on condition of anonymity.

All of them are feeling betrayed. “The four of them (offenders) have jeopardised our careers,” was all another lifter could say.

Chequered past

Dec, 1999:
The affairs of weightlifting were entrusted to an ad-hoc panel by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) following dispute over the elections held in Kolkata on Oct 31, 1999. Balbir Bhatia and RR Singh comprised the panel that replaced IWF secretary Gopal Khanra. Khanra wrote to Kalmadi, in Jan, 2001 to state that he was the duly-elected secretary and he did not recognise the ad-hoc panel. The IOA re-iterated its stand and stuck to the ad-hoc panel. In April 2001, Khanra sought legal recourse and obtained a stay against the ad-hoc committee.

May, 2001: Khanra was taken into custody on charges of cheating and criminal breach of trust after he allegedly failed to return about Rs 5,78,000 he received from the Sports Ministry. He had also allegedly taken Rs 7,00,000 from the Hinduja Sports Foundation for purposes related to boarding and lodging of women weightlifters and coaches for the World Championships in Thailand in Dec, 1997. Later, in March 1998, he claimed Rs 7,00,000 allegedly from the Sports Ministry without stating that he had received the money from the Hinduja Foundation. The ministry paid Rs 5,78,000 towards the expenses.

Sept 28, 2004: IWF was suspended from competition for a year by the International Weightlifting Federation in the light of positive drug tests of Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu (in 2004 Athens Olympics) and S Sunaina (Asian Weightlifting Championships in April, 2004).

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