Athens, Aug. 19: The tally of medals may be only one, but in testosterone levels India is up there with the best.
It was revealed today that weightlifter Pratima Kumari had tested positive for anabolic steroid testosterone. Hours later, Sanamacha Chanu became the second Indian lifter to fail the drug test at the Olympics here.
“She (Pratima) was found positive for testosterone on August 12 (a day before the Olympic Games opened) when a test was conducted by the International Weightlifting Federation,” Indian deputy chef-de-mission Harish Sharma told reporters.
Earlier, the federation announced a list of five dope offenders.
Pratima was declared positive after the testosterone level in her system was found to be much above the permissible limit during out-of-competition tests conducted by the federation on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremony.
Indian officials kept the scandal under wraps, though they knew the result on August 16, until it was announced by the federation today.
“These were out-of-competition tests conducted before the Olympics by the International Weightlifting Federation,” its chief Tamas Ajan said. “Of course, none of them was allowed to compete,” he added.
“I stress these were tests done by our own federation.”
The Bokaro-based Pratima was sent home the same day she failed the dope test, Sharma said, apparently because she was suffering from severe back pain. She had arrived on August 10 and the samples were collected two days later.
Announcing the disqualification of Sanamacha, who hails from Manipur, Sharma said: “She was tested after her event (53-kg category on August 15) and the International Olympic Committee informed us of the result today.” She had finished fourth.
“It is shocking,” H.J. Dora, the Indian Weightlifting Federation president, told Reuters. “We tested our lifters before sending them to Athens so they don’t bring a bad name to the country.”
The revelation spoilt the mood in the Indian camp which only last night celebrated at a dinner party Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s winning of a silver medal in shooting, the team’s only success so far.
Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi and other officials ducked for cover after the news broke. Kalmadi had grandly promised a dope-free Olympics.
As Pratima was pulled out of the fray, Sydney games bronze winner Karnam Malleswari complained of back pain while trying her first snatch lift, dropped the bar as soon as she had raised it off the floor and departed for the medical room yesterday.
Malleswari, too, was suffering from intense pain and doctors had advised her against competing. But she went ahead and has now been sent home.
The scandal came when the Indian campaign was trying to gather steam on the achievement of Rathore, who bagged an Olympic individual silver after over a century.