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SAI suspends Sunita’s coach

The Sports Authority of India Friday suspended drug-tainted athlete Sunita Rani’s coach Renu Kohli to “facilitate the inquiry” instituted by the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI), even as an Indian Olympic Association (IOA) vice-president said in Ranchi that the athlete may appeal before the Arbitration Panel of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne.

It was also disclosed that the one-man committee of Sushil Salwan, probing the case, was Friday granted the ten-day extension requested by it.

Regarding Kohli’s ban, a senior SAI official said: “The suspension is normal procedure in such cases so that the inquiry is free and fair.” Kohli has already been questioned by Salwan.

Sunita was stripped of her 1,500m gold and 5,000m bronze medals she won at the Busan Asian Games after she tested positive for the banned nandrolone.

According to government rules, Kohli’s suspension would have to be revoked after three months in case no charges were established against her. Kohli has been in charge of Sunita for the past five years. The distance runner won a silver and a bronze at the Bangkok Games.

Kohli will continue to get 50 per cent of her salary for the first two months, then 75 per cent for the next few months and then finally she would start getting the full amount if the suspension was not revoked by that time.

Regarding Salwan’s extension, AAFI secretary Lalit Bhanot said federation president Suresh Kalmadi had agreed to grant a the extension, but “also suggested that it would be good, if the inquiry can be completed before that.”

The AAFI had set up the committee Sunday, asking it to submit its report within a week. But Salwan, also an AAFI vice-president, expressed his inability to complete the job within that time and had asked for an extension.

The appeal

In Ranchi, IOA vice-president and Rajya Sabha member R. K. Anand said Friday: “Any athlete can go to the Arbitration Panel if he or she feels that injustice is being meted out. Sunita may approach the panel to put her case. It is wrong to say that the IOA is meting out a shabby treatment to the athlete,” he said.

Anand said it was “unfair” to put Sunita alon e in the dock. “She has categorically stated that she was administered the medicine by the Indian team doctor. We feel that the coach and the doctor are equally responsible for the act. The inquiry will reveal the matter.”

Anand advocated that if Sunita has been taken to task, the doctor should also be suspended. “There should be a chain of suspensions. Sunita should not be singled out. This is for sure that she was ignorant about the drugs being administered to her,” he pointed out.

The doctor has been questioned, but there has been no indication so far from either the AAFI or the IOA that he will face suspension. This was the first time that any senior IOA member has come out in public with a public call for a ban on the doctor as well.

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