Sex and drugs rock C'wealth Games!
India are confident they will recover from a sex scandal, illness and a doping row to make their mark when competitions begin at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne on Thursday.india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 19:59 IST
India are confident they will recover from a sex scandal, illness and a doping row to make their mark when competitions begin at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne on Thursday.
The Indians have endured the worst possible start with 35-year-old masseur, Dewan Nabi, charged with a sexual assault on a Games worker and reliable field hockey defender Harpal Singh sidelined with chicken pox.
"I pray our share of bad luck is over," said team spokesman Sandeep Mehta. "We have come here to do well and I am confident we would have made a good impression by the time the Games are over.
"The team is obviously disappointed at what has happened but we will not let it affect our preparations."
India go into the Games hoping to repeat their best ever performance at an international meet of 30 gold, 21 silver and 19 bronze medals they won in the previous edition in Manchester four years ago.
It won't be easy since weightlifting, where India reaped 11 gold medals, now awards only one gold in each category instead of giving separate medals for snatch, clean and jerk and overall like at Manchester.
That is not India's only worry. Before the squad left for Melbourne, the country's Olympic chief Suresh Kalmadi warned competitors to stay away from drugs.
Kalmadi had every reason to be concerned. India's sporting image has been dented in recent times by a number of positive drugs tests at world meets like the Olympics and the Asian Games.
A month before Melbourne, woman weightlifter Shailaja Pujari tested positive for stanozol, an anabolic steroid, during an out-of-competition test carried out by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).
India's zero-tolerance policy towards drug abuse ensured the 22-year-old, a gold medal prospect in the 75kg category, was thrown out of the contingent even before her 'B' sample was tested.
Another woman weightlifter Prameela Boradi, who was to compete in the 63kg catergory, did not make the trip to Melbourne for what officials said was "family reasons."
At Manchester, double gold-medallist Satheesha Rai brought India's gold medal tally down from 32 when he failed a dope test. It came a day after fellow 'lifter Krishnan Madasamy was stripped of three silver medals for the same offence.
Three female weightlifters, Kunjurani Devi, Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu, tested positive at the Athens Olympics, forcing the world body to hand India a one-year ban from international competitions.
"I don't want any of our sportspersons testing positive," said Kalmadi. "The good performance we put up should not be diluted."
The shooters, led by Olympic silver medallist Rajyavardhan Rathore, hope to surpass the 14 golds they won in Manchester.
Rathore, an army officer who won India's lone medal at the Athens Olympics, will be pitted against his former coach Russell Mark of Australia in the double trap event.
"There is a lot to look forward to in Melbourne," said Rathore, India's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony.
With Australia overwhelming favourites to win both gold medals in field hockey, India's men and women will be satisfied with a podium finish after uninspiring performances over the last two years.
William Xalco, who will replace Harpal, is expected to join the men's team before the first match against Malaysia on Friday.
India, taking part in 10 disciplines, also hope to win medals in athletics, badminton, boxing and table tennis.