M A I N   N E W S

Maken sacks foreign coaches, orders probe
Union Sports Minister acts as doping scandal gets murkier
MS Unnikrishnan/TNS

New Delhi, July 5
Taking a very serious view of the recent dope cases involving Indian athletes, Sports Minister Ajay Maken today ordered the sacking of all foreign coaches attached with Indian athletes, including chief coach Yuri Ogrodnik of Ukraine, with immediate effect.

Some of the athletes caught in the dope net in the out-of-competition tests, conducted by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), had blamed coaches and food supplements for the positive tests. “The coaches are supposed to know what the athletes are taking and should tell them what to take and what not,” Maken said at a media briefing at his office in Shastri Bhawan here.

He also sought a judicial probe into the scandal and said those found guilty would not be spared. The minister said he had also asked Secretary (Sports) Sindhushree Khullar to constitute an inquiry panel headed by a retired high court judge or chairman of the Disciplinary Hearing Panel of NADA to look into the matter and establish the reasons leading to such a state of affairs, its effect, prevalence and modus operandi.

“The inquiry panel will suggest concrete measures to ensure that such events/issues do not emerge in future,” Maken said.

“The positive dope tests of eight athletes have brought disgrace to the sporting fraternity and the entire country. So we have decided to take some strong measures against the coaches and officials so that such things do not occur,” he added.

Those who have been caught in the dope net are India’s 4x400m women’s gold winning relay team members in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose and Ashwini Akkunji, Tiara Mary Thomas, Juana Murmu, Priyanka Pawar (400m), shot-putter Sonia and long jumper Hari Krishnan Muralidharan. Mandeep, Jose, Murmu, Akkunji and Pawar tested positive for Methandienone; Tiana for anabolic steroid Epimethandiol.

“We have decided to relieve foreign coach Yuri Ogrodnik attached with the athletes with immediate effect,” Maken said. “I will personally see to it and ensure that the officials who are responsible for the scandal are penalised,” he added.

However, Ogrodnik professed innocence in an interview to a television channel, claiming that he had given only food supplements and not banned substances, to the athletes. “I am not stupid, I am a professional coach. I have never given any steroids to the athletes. Steroids are very bad. Who did this, I don’t know. I have been set up,” he asserted.

Maken, on the other hand, felt doping at such an extensive scale could not have happened without the connivance of coaches and officials.

“Earlier, we were only blaming the sportspersons and I am not saying they are not at fault. But in a situation, where most of these athletes come from illiterate or semi-literate backgrounds, it is the coaches, doctors and officials as well as the SAI officials who must have told them what to take or what not to take,” he explained.

He said that all sorts of excuses were being trotted out for the positive cases.

“We are told that there was not enough stock of food supplements at the NIS, Patiala, and hence the athletes were forced to buy them from outside. But why did those officials (responsible for this) not keep track of the stocks? They have to explain,” he said.

“I have also asked the Director-General of SAI to submit a report within three days about any vigilance lapses and the availability of such banned drugs on the NIS, Patiala, premises,” he added.

The minister said while every doping incident involved personal disgrace, banning and withdrawal of medals from the offenders, the role of the support staff, including coaches, doctors, officials and others, needed to be “inquired, ascertained and suitably disposed of”.

He said other measures suggested in his six-point directions issued to the Sports Ministry and SAI include: Provision for changing/rotating doping officers frequently; examine provisions for increasing the strength of doctors at the NIS, Patiala, to at least three, including one woman doctor.

Former sprint queen PT Usha, whose ward Tintu Luka will now run in the 4x400m relay, apart from the 800m at the Asian Championship at Kobe (Japan), said such things should not have happened on the eve of a major championship.

“The media begun publishing about doping in Indian athletics since 1988 and if a proper action had been taken at that time, the present situation would not have occurred. I feel very bad,” she added.





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