KOCHI: As many as 56 athletes, who are training outside the national camps and have performed well in the recently held Federation Cup Athletics Championship, have been asked to report to the national camps to prepare for the Asian Athletics Championship that the country is hosting in Bhubaneswar from July 6 to 9.
A communication in this regard was sent by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to the athletes at the start of this week, which said that those who failed to join the camp within four days will not be considered for selection to the national teams for international competitions.
The national deputy chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair said the decision was taken to field only those athletes who attend the national camps in the international competitions, as per government rule.
“There are several disciplines in which the federations consider only those who participate in the national camps for competitions and trials. What is wrong if we do the same in athletics?” he asked.
Terming the move as part of AFI’s drive against dope offences, he said there were strict anti-doping measures in place at the camps, and those who were unwilling to train at those facilities could be suspected of doping. The AFI had earlier made it clear that they won’t field non-campers in international competitions to curb the dope menace, but the claim blew up in their faces after one of the athletes in the national camp was caught with meldonium, a banned substance, in his hostel room in NIS Patiala.
However, several athletes were affronted by the move which they claim is part of a larger plot to affirm the authority of the AFI.
“If they want to curb doping, they should ask the NADA to do random tests on the athletes who are training outside. There may be cases where those who stayed outside the camps took dope, but didn’t those things happen in the camps as well? So instead of painting everyone with same brush, they should ask NADA to clear the air around the issue,” a senior athlete told Express after seeking anonymity.
Another sprinter said the decision to assemble everyone under a single roof won’t do good for their training. Many of the athletes who were called to the camps — Srabani Nanda, Amiya Kumar Mallick, Nirmala S etc — have their own coaches.
“To be in the camp for almost three weeks before the event is not a good idea especially if you are following the training patterns of another coach. Switching coaches at the crucial juncture will affect the preparations,” the athlete said.
Meanwhile, AFI director ML Dogra said the athletes who are training with exceptional personal coaches can bring them to the camps during brief stays.
However, deputy coach said the clause can be an exception but not a rule. The camps are currently being held in Thiruvananthapuram, Patiala and Ooty.