Seema Punia’s absence has officials in a tizzy ahead of 2018 Commonwealth Games
Seema Punia has not arrived in Gold Coast ahead of 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) officials have no clue about her whereabouts.other sports Updated: Mar 19, 2018 23:08 IST
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is clueless about the training base of Commonwealth Games-bound discus thrower Seema Punia, even though compatriot Navjit Kaur Dhillon has reached Australia and started her training.
Last week, 24 athletes had left for their training bases in Australia in two batches. Only six athletes remain in India, with middle and long-distance runners L Suriya and Jinson Johnson training in Ooty, and four other, including shotputter Tejinderpal Singh Toor, are in Patiala.
“I have no idea where Seema is. She hasn’t gone to Australia and isn’t training in Patiala,” said chief coach Bahadur Singh.
AFI secretary-general CK Valson denied that the federation had given her permission to train on her own. “We have only given (her) a letter so that she can take leave from her department for the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
An official associated with the AFI said that Seema had gone to Russia, a country banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for running a state-sponsored doping programme.
With no concrete policy to punish athletes skipping national camps ahead of major international meet, Seema might get away with a mild warning, said an official associated with the national camp.
Ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Seema had skipped the national camp, preferring to train in the Russian city of Maykop, in the Caucasus region. But the 2014 Asian Games gold medallist finished 20th in the quadrennial event with a throw of 57.58m, way below her season’s best of 62.62.
Two other athletes, sprinter Dharambir Singh and shotputter Inderjeet Singh, who also trained on their own ahead of Rio, failed dope tests.
During the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago, Seema had bagged gold but failed the dope test for a stimulant and had to return her medal. She also allegedly failed the dope test ahead of the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
Bahadur Singh said that after finishing sixth with a throw of 54.11 at last year’s Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, “Seema kept a low profile and didn’t attend the national camp. She surprised everyone with her gold medal-winning throw of 61.05m, which was better than the CWG qualifying mark of 59m, on the opening day of the Federation Cup in March.
Despite winning gold, she wasn’t tested as the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) officials were absent.
Seema has bagged three Commonwealth Games medals --- two silver and a bronze since 2006 Melbourne --- and is considered a medal prospect.