The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dope divide shows

Athens/New Delhi, Aug. 20: The Indian sports establishment today scrambled to set up a committee to probe the double dope scandal but a blame game burst forth through the veneer of the time-tested face-saving measure.

As Pratima Kumari, one of the two weightlifters sent home after failing drug tests, cried foul against her coaches and sparked a debate on the practice of hiring foreign trainers, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) announced an inquiry against both athletes and officials.

“We will take a long, hard look at the issue and then go in for stringent measures, leading to life bans if necessary. The committee will not only investigate the athletes, but also all the officials associated with this,” Indian deputy chef-de-mission Harish Sharma said in Athens.

K.P. Singh Deo, chairman of IOA’s sports commission, and Dr Manmohan Singh, the IOA doping panel chief, will be the members of the committee that will “look into the incident and give a report as quickly as possible (one month)”.

Pratima stood by her allegation against coaches Pal Singh Sandhu and Leonid Taranenko, who hails from Belarus. “During a training session in Belarus (in June-July), I complained of backache. They took me to a doctor who administered me over 25 injections,” she said in Delhi.

Weightlifting Federation of India president H.J. Dora challenged Pratima’s version, saying: “If she was given banned substances during training a month ago, how could she escape the tests conducted in Belarus and then in India'”

A source in the IOA chose to blame the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). “There was no reason to declare the name of the athlete just on the basis of her A sample test. Her name cannot be disclosed unless the B sample is tested, and unless her case is heard by a panel,” he said.

There has been a lot of heartburn in Athens over IWF president Tamas Ajan’s comment that India hired a coach from a particular country despite a warning. He did not name any coach or country but indicated that he was aware of Taranenko’s appointment.

“I don’t think Ajan has the right or authority to tell us who to appoint as coach,” an IOA official said later.

Belarus and Ukraine have been hot training spots for Indians, especially athletes, for some time now. Some of the countries in the region have a history of doping. The Indians had the option of training in Cyprus but an official came up with a reason for not doing so: “You have to live at one place and go to eat at another.”

Officials also tried to scotch rumours swirling around shot-putter Bahadur Singh, who had three consecutive foul throws. In the past, some athletes had fouled to avoid dope testing. “These rumours have no base at all,” Athletics Federation of India secretary Lalit Bhanot said.

Silver medal winner Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is also on his way back. The IOA initially wanted to hold him back to provide an impetus to the contingent. After the dope scandal, the officials are not sure what it will take to boost the morale in the camp.

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