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Concerns over doping as top athletes skip national camp

During its annual general body meeting in New Delhi last month, the Athletics Federation of India decided that athletes skipping the national camp would be barred from national trials for international competitions. The move seems to have had little effect.

other sports Updated: Nov 19, 2017 12:49 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
New Delhi
Athletics Federation of India,AFI,Muhammed Anas
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has raised concerns over doping ahead of the 2018 competitive season.(Getty Images - image only for representative purposes)

With elite athletes avoiding the ongoing national camp, opting to train on their own instead, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has raised concerns over doping ahead of the 2018 competitive season.

The Commonwealth Games in Australia is the first major competition of the year, where the AFI expects to field teams in 400m men and women’s relay and individual events, subject to qualification.

AFI secretary-general, CK Valson, said: “We are unsure whether those training outside the national camp are clean as there is no monitoring. If athletes are skipping the national camp, where there are good facilities, it does raise concerns,” he told Hindustan Times from Vijayawada.

Last year, thrower Inderjeet Singh and sprinter Dharambir Singh --- bound for the Rio Olympics --- had failed dope tests. The duo had skipped the national camp.

Asian champion and national record holder in men’s 400m Muhammed Anas is among those who have opted out. The national camp started on October 1 at Patiala’s National Institute of Sports, but Anas didn’t report to train under foreign coach Galina Bukharina.

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Besides Anas, 400m runners Anu Raghavan and Anilda Thomas have also refused to attend the camp. Former national champion MR Poovamma, a member of the national relay team, has also stayed away.

Tamil Nadu’s Rajiv Arokia, a member of the men’s 400m relay team, is the fifth runner to skip the camp.

It is surprising that those who skipped the camp were keen to join if it was shifted to south India. Acting on the request, the AFI moved the camp to Thiruvananthapuram this week but none of the top runners have reported so far. “We will check with them whether they are keen or not,” said Valson.

He said some of the athletes were training with personal coaches at Thiruvananthapuram, but were reluctant to join the camp. “With five months to go for the Commonwealth Games, we don’t have any data on the performance of top 400m runners. Since we are aiming for the podium in men’s 4x400m relay, it’s worrying,” he said.

During its annual general body meeting here last month, the AFI decided that athletes skipping the national camp would be barred from national trials for international competitions. The move seems to have had little effect.

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Off target

The failure to repeat domestic performances at major international meets has become a trend among top athletes.

Among the offenders is Anas (see box). Last year, he clocked 45.40 secs, a qualifying mark for the Olympics. However, he failed to impress at Rio.

This year, he bettered his 400m national mark to 45.32 secs and qualified for the World Athletics Championship at London in August. He failed to repeat the performance, casting a cloud over the national record he set in May.

National champion in women’s 400m Nirmala Sheoran too has impressed at home but failed to repeat the performance abroad.

The Haryana athlete has not reported for the camp and the federation isn’t aware of her whereabouts. Nirmala last participated at the World Championship in London where she failed to progress beyond the semifinal.

“Her phone is switched off,” said Haryana State Athletics Association secretary Raj Kumar. Nirmala is high on the radar of the National Anti-Doping Agency.

First Published: Nov 19, 2017 12:45 IST