Much before the crack of dawn, the villagers in Chaka Gopalpur were awoken by activity in an adjoining house. The worship of Lord Jagannath left them curious, till word spread around that a daughter was leaving for a far off country. At 2 am on Wednesday, Dutee Chand woke up, had a bath and joined her sisters, a brother and parents in the puja.
Before Dutee left for the airport, her mother Akkaji Chand fed her a special curd that was prepared for the day.
“The last time my mother fed me with her own hands was when I was five,” Dutee says. With the sprinter-daughter’s future at stake, the family was only ensuring that she left with blessings and the taste of her favourite ghar ki mithai. On early Saturday, Chand will leave for Lausanne, Switzerland, where her appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the decision to make her ineligible to compete in the female category will be heard next week.
The current National Games 100 metres champion and two-time Asian junior gold medal winner has higher than permissible levels of testosterone, as per the international athletics federation guidelines. Dutee missed the Commonwealth Games and was subsequently debarred from competing till she was provided interim relief by CAS. “I was very happy when I won the gold in the National Games. I was felicitated in my college, in my village and by officials in Orissa and my family was extremely happy,” Dutee says.
However, she experienced fleeting moments of anxiety. “I knew that the CAS hearing was only a few weeks away. My mind would drift and I would begin to wonder what lay for me in the future. I love sprinting. But if I lose the case and I am not allowed to run then kuch na kuch karoongi. I will remain strong,” Dutee says.
At the CAS hearing, Dutee’s counsels will be James Bunting, Carlos Sayao and former Supreme Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court Morris Fish, all from the law firm Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg. Dr Payoshni Mitra, a research consultant on gender and sports issues, who has been working with Dutee, will accompany the athlete to Lausanne.
“I am thankful to the ministry of sports, the sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal and the Sports Authority of India for backing me and providing financial support. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to appeal at CAS,” she says.