KOCHI: Torrid times are ahead for athletes, as Athletics Federation of India has decided to conduct trials for non-campers (non-national camp trainees) to finalise the contingent for the upcoming Asian Athletics Championships. If the AFI sticks to its decision, the body will have to conduct trials for a large group of athletes.
Consider this: in 20 men’s disciplines of the recently-held Federation Cup Athletics Championship, half of them were won by athletes training outside national camps. The number of non-campers who won silver and bronze will come close to two digits. In women’s disciplines also, numbers were more or less similar.
The Federation Cup was touted as selection trials for the Asian meet. But AFI maintained that the results of non-campers needed to be verified in order to rule out any chances of doping and injury, and hence the confirmation trials, which are slated to be held in the last week of June.
“We have told non-campers and those like Vikas Gowda and Siddhant Thingalaya, who are training abroad, to come for a trial at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala, on June 25 and 26. The selection committee will see their performances and decide whether they can be selected for the Asian Championships or not. If they don’t come, then they’ll not be considered for selection at all,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla told the media in Delhi on Wednesday.
The national body, in fact, has been acting tough against non-national camp athletes, suspecting them of resorting to illegal practices like doping. Though the general performance of Indian track and field athletes at last year’s Rio Olympics was pathetic, almost half a dozen athletes particularly came under the radar for their extremely lackadaisical show. There was a big gulf between their performance at Rio and in India, the latter of which fetched them Olympic berths. Performances of veteran athletes like Vikas Gowda were also criticised, with AFI harbouring doubts that the discus thrower had concealed the extent of his injury in order to take part in the big-ticket event.
However, the decision has invited the wrath of a section of the athletes, who termed the move ‘dictatorial’. “ It’s okay if the AFI decides to hold camps prior to big events. But to make the athletes compete again in hot conditions just ahead of a continental event in the name of confirmation trials is dictatorial,” a leading coach said.
A female athlete said that results of the Federation Cup prove that there is something wrong with the way national camps are run. “There were more winners from outside than from campers themselves. In certain events, the non-campers prevailed, like women’s 400m hurdles, where the top three were training elsewhere. Asking all winners to be in the camp is understandable. But when the non-campers alone are made to run trials while the campers enjoy official patronage, it send a bad message.”