The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has once again recommended triple-jumper Renjith Maheswary for the Arjuna award though the sports ministry had rejected a similar plea last year because of a doping violation.
The sports ministry had struck down Maheswary’s name after it was revealed that he had elevated levels of ephedrine — a stimulant — when tests were done on samples of the athlete collected during the 46th National Athletics Championships in Kochi in 2008.
The AFI is pushing the athlete’s case again because the international athletics federation IAAF had not issued a sanction on the athlete and because the National Drug Testing Laboratory (NDTL) was not accredited at the time of conducting the test in 2008. Also, a Kerala-based organisation has knocked on the Supreme Court’s doors with a plea to study the circumstances around why Maheswary lost out earlier. The AFI does not want to be seen in the wrong if the Supreme Court is sympathetic to Maheswary’s cause.
AFI secretary CK Valson confirmed to The Sunday Express that Maheswary’s name was recommended for the Arjuna award again. “We want to give the athlete every possible chance of getting the award. We had written to the IAAF and checked what their opinion was on Maheswary. They have got back to us saying that since the test was conducted in a non-accredited laboratory, there was no sanction imposed on Maheswary. It is a fact that NDTL was not accredited in 2008,” Valson said.
However, Valson also said that the Railway Sports Promotion Board (Maheswary is employed with the railways) had acknowledged that they had received a notification from the AFI in early 2009 that the athlete was suspended for three months. “We don’t want the athlete to be denied an honour because we have not recommended his name. The matter is also being heard in a court of law,” Valson added.
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When it was initially revealed last year than Maheswary had returned a doping violation, the AFI, which had recommended his name for the Arjuna award, tried to feign ignorance. When further pressed for information by the sports ministry, the AFI said that it could not locate the files related to Maheswary’s suspension.