M A I N   N E W S

3 lifters, coach get life ban
M.S. Unnikrishnan

New Delhi, September 29
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has imposed a life ban on three tainted weightlifters—Sanamacha Chanu, Pratima Kumari and Sunaina—and national coach Pal Singh Sandhu in pursuance of the 50-page report submitted by the two-member probe committee of KP Singh Deo and Dr Manmohan Singh, appointed by the IOA during the Olympic Games at Athens.

The IOA has also blacklisted foreign coach Leonid Taranenko, who had been held responsible for the doping fiasco at Athens by Pratima Kumari, after she was tested positive for a banned substance before her event.

Chanu had tested positive for a banned substance after her event while Sunaina had been penalised for testing positive for drugs during the Asian Championship a few months ago.

The probe panel talked to the "dramatis personae" of the doping scandal, including Karnam Malleswari, bronze medallist in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, before finalising its report.

Though the panel had submitted its report to the IOA a few days ago, the Olympic body was waiting for the test result of the B sample of Pratima Kumari, which too has been declared positive, before acting on the report.

IOA President Suresh Kalmadi, while announcing the life ban on the lifters and coaches here today, said, "Serious steps would be taken to root out doping from the country".

"We are taking many steps to clean up the system", he said, adding that "the life ban on the three women lifters would act as a deterrent to root out the evil".

Mr Kalmadi had talked tough when middle distance runner Sunita Rani, double gold medallist, tested positive for a banned substance during the Asian Games at Busan, 2002. Though Sunita Rani was later exonerated and her medals restored, nothing much seems to have changed since then.

The Government had sacked national coach Pal Singh Sandhu and foreign coach Leonid Taranenko after Sanamacha and Pratima had tested positive for drugs at Athens. And now IOA’s ban completely banishes Sandhu and the lifters from the scene.

As far as Taranenko is concerned, Mr Kalmadi said the IOA would be writing to the International Weightlifting Federation to ban him from taking up coaching assignments anywhere in the world.

Mr Kalmadi said the Weightlifting Federation of India (WFI) would also serve a one-year ban for the offence of the lifters. He said the WFI could have avoided the ban by paying the $ 50,000 fine to the international body, but had chosen to accept the ban to take stock of the situation and make a new beginning after cleaning up its act.

He warned that any sportsperson caught for a doping offence would be “banned for life”. Though Pal Singh Sandhu has helped the country win around 250 medals during the past 10 years, he could not be absolved of the doping offence involving the three women lifters, Mr Kalmadi said. Chairman of the probe panel KP Singh Deo alleged that there was an “international conspiracy” to defame Indian sportspersons. He said the athletes alone should not be held responsible for doping offences as the coaches should also be equally apportioned the blame.

Mr Kalmadi said the IOA would set up a National Anti-Doping Authority as per the norms of WADA (World Anti-Doping Authority). IOA Secretary-General Randhir Singh, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is also a member of WADA. He was present when Mr Kalmadi announced the ban on the lifters.

Though the IOA is a signatory to the WADA declaration at Copenhagen, the Indian Government has not appended its signature. India is among the 50 countries not to have signed the WADA agreement while 150 others have signed it.

The Indian weightlifters had collected 77 medals from nine international competitions during the past year, including the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Afro-Asian Games and the SAF Games, but despite its good deeds, the misdeeds of a few have brought a bad name to the federation.

WFI president RJ Dora, a member of the Central Vigilance Commission, said the federation had all along been taking preventive steps to curb drug abuse and it had been decided to impose life ban on a “first offence”, during the executive committee meeting of the federation in Mumbai on September 12. 

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