CHENNAI : In a major embarrassment to the Indian Weightlifting Federation, six top weightlifters tested positive at the recently held 71st Men’s and 34th Women’s Senior Nationals in February this year. This will perhaps be the first time that so many national gold medallists (three men and one woman) will be stripped of their medals. All medallists at the event were tested. According to National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), they have all been provisionally suspended.
Most high-profile among them is Ravi Kumar Katulu, who won a gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and a silver at the 2014 edition. He also won a gold at the senior nationals. Veerender Singh (96kg) and Vishal Solanki (109kg) are also gold winners at the men’s event. Purnima Pandey won gold in the women’s +87kg category.It is learnt that some of the lifters tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs), a type of drug chemically similar to anabolic steroids.
This is not the first time that weightlifters are finding their names in NADA lists — lifters made up ten of the 60 athletes who were provisionally suspended for doping in 2016-17. “A lot of lifters test positive every year,” said a top NADA official. “This year we focused on the methodology of doping by the lifters, so we were able to catch a lot more.”
The development assumes significance with 2020 being an Olympic year as two positive tests in international meets in the same year can lead to the federation getting suspended. The Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) has been subject to this ban before in 2004 and 2006. However, the federation claims that the number has increased because of its own strict monitoring.
IWLF secretary Sahdev Yadav said, “None of the lifters who are in the NADA list are core campers. We have been following our own policies to curb this doping offence and we will continue with that. That’s why all medallists were tested at the nationals. After the ‘B’ sample tests are done, we will consider sanctions on their coaches and their respective state federations.”
Ravi Kumar, who won the 89kg gold at the nationals, maintained that offence occurred due to a lack of information. “The supplements that we took were legal until January 2019 and the senior nationals were held in February. This was something that we were taking for the past two years.
“I am not part of the national camp and the latest information on what has been placed on the banned list is hard to come by for those of us who are training at home. This was unintentional. I have won medals for years without doping allegations. Why would do this now when I am so close to retirement? I just hope we get assistance from the federation. There will be a ban, but I hope it is reduced due to the nature of the offence.”
The Anti-Doping Appeal Panel upheld the ban on athlete Priyanka Pawar, who was part of gold-winning 4x400m women’s relay team at the 2014 Asiad. Pawar had failed a dope test for the second time in 2016 and was suspended for eight years.
Sixteen-year-old Aryan Bhatia, who had become the first tennis player to fail a dope test, is likely to be cleared, it has been learnt. His hearing was on May 8.
Jyoti Singh, who won the IDBI Half Marathon in Mumbai, had tested positive.