BANGALORE: India’s golden girl at the Asian Games Ashwini AC was the latest to join the hall of shame testing positive for anabolic steroid methandienone forcing the Athletics Federation of India to again to rejig the women’s 4x400m relay squad in the Asian Athletics Championship.
Of the 25 sample results that came out from the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) on Monday, there were three positive results – the other two being Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Joseph – taking the total number of athletes caught for doping in the last one week to eight, and six of them were members of the relay squad trained in Patiala by veteran Ukranian coach Iuri Ogorodonik. Of the eight Tiana and Juana Murmu tested positive twice.
“The three positive samples were collected during out-of-competition tests in Patiala on June 27. The AFI has been informed about the results and the athletes were handed a provisional suspension,” sources told TOI.
The disgraced athletes now have got 15 days time for a B sample testing which is optional. If that is also positive they will face the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) hearing panel headed by Justice (retd) Dinesh Dayal. The panel is expected to give its verdict in 3-4 sittings.
The latest development is the biggest ever blow to the credibility of Indian athletics as the gangling Udupi girl was the star at the Asian Games where she won two gold medals – women’s 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay. Ashwini even caught the eye of Brand India and won nearly Rs 1 crore in prize money for her exploits on the track.
The decimation of the 1600m relay squad, only Manjeet Kaur remains negative, means India’s chances to qualify for the London Olympics is now virtually over. Even for the Asian meet beginning in Kobe, Japan on July 7 “the AFI will have no option but to cobble up a second string squad with the help of 800m runner Tintu Luka and heptathlete Susmita Singha Roy,” sources said.
Meanwhile, Ashwini told her parents that she is innocent. “She called up and told us remain brave. I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m innocent,” Ashwini’s father Chidananda Shetty told TOI.
Focus back on coach: The latest high profile catch by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) puts the focus back on the women’s 4x400m relay squad and the role of coaches who trained them. Six of the seven athletes who finished 1-6 in the women’s 400m final at the Inter-State meet in Bangalore on June 12 have tested positive for the same banned substance.
Watched from the sidelines by Ogorodonik, Ashwini won the gold to announce her return to form clocking 52.82 seconds followed by Mandeep Kaur and Juana Murmu. The only finalist who has not returned an adverse finding so far is K Mrudula of Andhra Pradesh who incidentally finished last.
(with inputs from Prajwal Hegde)