A decision not to appeal against the doping charges deprived triple jump national record holder Renjith Maheshwari from the prestigious Arjuna award, the government told the Supreme Court Friday while expressing its “considerable reluctance and regret.”
In September, 2013, hours before the Kerala-athlete was to receive the Arjuna Award, his name was dropped from the list in view of his having failed a dope test five years back. The Athletics Federation of India had subsequently suspended him for three months.
But the Sports Ministry has now pointed out that he may not have suffered the ban at the first place had he brought on record some crucial facts before the competent authority in the ministry at the relevant time.
To corroborate this, the ministry submitted an office note of September 18, last year, acknowledging that Maheshwari could not have faced the penalty if he would have shown that the International Association of Athletics Federation failed to appreciate the lacuna in his case.
The ministry also accepted that the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) had given clear findings that the doping sample suffered from an “inadequate chain of custody” and “could have been manipulated with.” Not only this, it was tested by a laboratory, which was not accredited.
It claimed the the athlete never brought these facts into notice of competent authority, nor he challenged the punishment.
“Since all these years, he has not challenged the decision to ban, we must hold that he was guilty of unethical practice in 2008.we have a zero tolerance policy against doping offenses, I would now, with considerable reluctance, suggest that he does not deserve the Arjuna Award,” the note by the Sports Secretary stated.
Award not matter of right
The government, while adducing the justification for not giving him the award despite acknowledging these significant doubts, however added that Maheshwari could not claim the award as a matter of right since the felicitation was its prerogative.
The affidavit has been filed in response to a PIL by Kerala-based organisation ‘Navalokam Samskarika Kendram’ which has sought court’s intervention into the matter.