The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scorn, ridicule for Sunita

Busan, Oct. 14: The mood in the Indian camp has undergone a sea-change overnight. Till Sunday, there was an air of sympathy for Sunita Rani. Many were willing to give her the benefit of doubt, saying there could have been a mistake somewhere.

But after seeing the news in print and getting to hear of a second positive dope test, there is nothing but scorn and ridicule for the double-medallist at the Busan Asian Games. The fault is entirely the athlete’s, feel athletes and officials alike.

“If it was a junior athlete, I would have understood,” said a medal-winner who made her Asian Games debut here. “But she won a silver and bronze at the Bangkok Games four years earlier and is quite experienced. How could she do a thing like that'”

Rubbishing the theory that foreign coaches of the Indian team have been encouraging performance-enhancing substances to swell the medal haul, she said it was a ploy to find a scapegoat. “I am also under a Russian coach, I have never been asked to take anything like that. How can I believe that somebody else has been told to do it'”

Madhuri Singh, who stands to gain once Sunita is stripped of her medals, was just as ruthless in her criticism. “I was told of the fiasco when I called home last night, they had seen the news on TV. I couldn’t believe that a member of our team had done something like that.

“She will deserve every punishment she gets. If she doesn’t know what’s good for her in this age of strict controls, she only has to take the blame,” said Madhuri who came fourth in the 1,500m.

Once the OCA verdict comes, sometime later this week, Madhuri will be awarded the bronze. Kyrgyzstan’s Tatiana Borisova and Japanese Yoshiko Ichikawa will be promoted to gold and silver, respectively.

“I didn’t want a medal this way, certainly not at the cost of a fellow-Indian being penalised for cheating. All Indians have been disgraced and for one person, everyone else is being looked at with suspicion,” said Madhuri who won silver in the women’s 800m.

Indian manager Bibek Lahiri said Sunita and her coach Renu Kohli have been crying ever since they were told of the positive test.

“They are so upset and haven’t been eating properly... Sunita’s been swearing to us that she didn’t do any wrong.” Kohli, one of the three SAI coaches with the athletics squad, refused to speak to newsmen.

Deputy chef-de-mission C.P. Singh Deo wondered how such a scandal happened despite the government’s effort to stamp out this menace. “Only after dope test reports of all athletes were submitted to the government did they give clearance. That’s why the delay in the athletes’ arrival in Busan. And still...”

The first batch of Indian athletes, including Sunita, is leaving for home Tuesday. The reception, despite the mega medal haul, is unlikely to be warm.

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