KOCHI: The equation between athletes who skip the national camps and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has been frosty, with the latter alleging that those athletes keep away from the camps to avoid getting dope tested.
The athletes, on the other hand, maintained that they are better off training with their personal coaches rather than wasting time in the laager. This back and forth has escalated ever since the AFI, in its general body meeting earlier this year, made it a rule that the athletes who train outside the camps won’t be picked to the national squad, and warned the absentees of disciplinary action. Although nothing of that sort happened till date.
However, the issue might snowball into something bigger as training has entered its second phase. The 400m national camp has been shifted to Thiruvananthapuram’s SAI centre, where three top quarter-milers — Muhammed Anas, Anilda Thomas and Anu R — train with the Kerala State Sports Council coach PB Jaikumar.
Though the AFI, in a bid to avoid confrontation, had informed that athletes can bring their personal coaches to the camp so that the USSR-born US coach Galina Bukharina can get a better understanding of their training routines, athletes have so far turned their back on the proposition.
With the non-campers and campers staying in the same place but training differently, the AFI bosses are vexed and are mulling action against the athletes. “What should we make out from the fact that the camp is in Thiruvananthapuram but some of the athletes who are training there are not willing to join the camp. A reputed foreign national coach is giving training but they are staying away. How can we take it lightly?” said AFI secretary CK Valson.
It’s not just the trio who have given the camp a miss. Other leading athletes like MR Poovamma, Arokia Rajiv and Mohan Kumar have been training elsewhere despite the AFI diktat. But since the camp is going on at Thiruvananthapuram, the AFI is all likely to train their guns at Jaikumar’s wards. “We have a better chance in the relay events than individual ones. The athletes also know that but we are at our wit’s end, as they are reluctant to join the camp,” Valson said.
Some of the campers echoed the views. “Unlike the previous coaches, this time we have a technically superior coach. But without leading athletes, the training would be in a losing cause. “Only two of the seniors are in the camp and the coach has to make way with the juniors,” a men’s 4x400m relay team member said.
But the athletes who train separately have a different view. They argue that the AFI proposition to allow the coach in the camp is nothing but an eyewash. “We can be in the camp with the coach. But is there any surety that they will allow the coach to train us?” one of the athletes asked.