Busan, Oct. 13: The ghost of Manchester is haunting India in Busan, too.
Shamed by two of its weightlifters testing positive at the Commonwealth Games two months ago, India has been rocked by an even bigger doping scandal at the Asian Games. Distance runner Sunita Rani has tested positive, reportedly for the banned drug nandrolone.
The 23-year-old from Sangrur, Punjab, struck gold in 1,500 metres on Thursday and bronze in 5,000 metres yesterday.
“A banned substance has been found in her first urine sample taken after her race on October 10,” a letter from Yoshio Kuroda, chief medical commissioner of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), said. The letter was handed over to Jagdish Tytler, chef-de-mission of the Indian contingent, yesterday.
Tytler attended an OCA emergency hearing along with the athlete, her coach Renu Kohli and team doctor Jawahar Jain last night. Sunita was asked whether she used any banned substance before the race. “She replied in the negative and added that the only thing she has been using are Liv-52 tablets for a liver problem,” Tytler said this evening.
As in all such cases, a second urine sample — preserved from the same day — will be tested on October 25. “We wanted the B test to be done in Bangkok and not Seoul, but we were told rules don’t permit that. We had no option but to agree to Seoul and the date was set according to our convenience,” Tytler said.
Sunita shattered the Asian Games record (4 minutes, 12.48 seconds) as well her as her own national record (4:08.01) with a brilliant timing of 4:06.03 last Thursday, leading to a few raised eyebrows.
The question being asked was how she could make such a dramatic improvement after coming out of a prolonged injury. A groin problem had put her out of action for close to two years.
The fact that she was not cleared on the first list of Busan-bound athletes was also a topic of discussion. No official reason was given for her late clearance.
The Indian management is banking on Sunita’s relatively poor bronze performance in the 5,000 metres two days after her golden run in the 1,500 metres. “If she was on dope, why didn’t she win gold in 5,000 also'” asked an official of the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI).
The result of the 5,000 metres tests will be available in a day or two. If Sunita tests positive there too, it’s a closed chapter for her. But if she comes out clean in that test, she may have an outside chance of escaping.
A decision on her medals will be taken by the OCA only after her B test result is known. If the positive test is confirmed, she will almost certainly lose both her gold and bronze.
“After the Manchester fiasco, we made it a point to test all athletes selected for the Asian Games before they left New Delhi. If somebody takes a banned substance on his own, he himself will be responsible and answerable,” Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi had said in Busan the other day.
Kalmadi, also the president of the Asian Athletic Association, wasn’t here as he had left for home yesterday to attend his daughter’s engagement.