Big setback for India as top athletes test positive for doping

Days away from CWG, Dhanalakshmi and Aishwarya's tests brings the focus back on the menace of doping.

Published: 20th July 2022 11:38 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st July 2022 01:57 AM   |  A+A-

Doping

For representational purposes. (File Photo)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Indian athletics seems to be in shambles. The world championships in Eugene, Oregon, has been disappointing with athletes falling way off their personal bests. On one occasion an athlete pulled out due to injury. As Tokyo 2020 champion Neeraj Chopra gets ready for his event, (July 21, early Friday India time for qualification), the news of top athletes testing positive has tarnished the image of the sport. With the Commonwealth Games weeks away, this is the most shameful news possible for the entire India team.

If we consider high-profile athletes getting caught in recent times, the list as it stands, is quite scary. Kawalpreet Kaur, the national record holder in women's discus, MR Poovamma (Asian Games medallist), a top javelin thrower, a former national record holder in javelin Rajender Singh, U23 national champion in men's 5000m...the embarrassment multiplies.

India, which usually tops the list of doping offences in the World Anti-Doping Agency list, is yet to recover from a top quarter-miler Asian Games gold medallist and a javelin star testing positive. And now, the shocking news of sprinter 100m and 200m exponent Dhanalakshmi and long jumper Aishwarya Babu, who threatened to overhaul 2003 world championships medallist Anju Bobby George's long-standing national record, failing dope test has once again brought the focus back on the menace of doping. Athletics Federation of India officials confirmed the two cases and both of them are provisionally suspended. Dhanalakshmi was part of the 100m and 4x100m team for CWG. Her name, however, did not figure in world championships, despite making the cut in 200m.

Interestingly, here the Athletics Federation of India would be piqued too. Dhanalakshmi is a national camper and the AFI always insists on athletes to be part of the camp at all times. Aishwarya on the other hand is a non-camper. There have been quite a few indicators in the case of Aishwarya during the inter-state championships. One of the reasons why AFI had been insisting on athletes to join camp was because of tighter vigil by dope testers, which can act as a deterrent too. However, with a number of national campers testing positive of late, that could be a worrying factor.

READ HERE | Doping horror lingers over Indian athletics as under-23 national champ tests positive for banned substances

Dhanalakshmi had been phenomenal this season. She clocked 11.25s and has beaten both Dutee Chand and Hima Das, in 100m as well as 200m. Her timing is the second-best over-all in the country. The Tamil Nadu athlete, however, did not run 100m during the inter-state senior nationals in Chennai.

Another reason that experts felt led to so many athletes testing positive because of covid. There is a theory that a lot of athletes took advantage during the lockdown as there was no testing, especially by international agencies like Athletics Integrity Unit, World Anti-Doping Agency. Even the National Anti-Doping Agency was lax during peak covid because of travel and other restrictions. With more out-of-competition tests conducted now, more athletes are expected to return positive. In the case of Dhanalakshmi, according to reports, she tested positive in out-of-competition tests for steroids. Meanwhile, Aishwarya tested positive for Ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM), that helps in building muscles and is usually found in supplements.

In the case of Aishwarya, there were indications that something seemed unusual. The  Bangalore athlete rushed out of the venue after recording a monstrous 6.73m (second best long jump after Anju) during the inter-state senior athletics in Chennai. She had been improving her mark phenomenally in the last two years. In fact, she improved some .21cm since last year. In between, she had an ACL surgery too. In the triple jump, she broke Mayookha Johny's national record with a jump of 14.14m at the Chennai inter-states. With the recent developments, her records could be nullified.

Shaili to miss junior worlds

According to junior world championships silver medallist in long jump Shaili Singh's team, she will not be participating in this edition in August at Cali. She hurt her toe and after medical reviews, the team led by her coach Robert Bobby George have decided to skip the junior worlds this time.



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