Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal declared on Thursday that the country was targeting at least ‘10 medals at the Rio Olympics’. This he said after a stock-taking meeting of next year’s big event with sports federation officials, who in turn raised concern about the availability, allowance for and quality of food supplements.
Sports federation officials highlighted the fact that there needs to be proper monitoring of the food supplements, which athletes consume in the run-up to the Olympics.
While Sports Authority of India (SAI) sanctions allowances for food supplements, in most cases individual sports persons buy supplements based on the advice of their respective coaches or coaches appointed by the federation. The sports ministry, on its part, will prepare a list of food supplements considered ‘safe and effective’, which will be forwarded to various federations.
However, the onus will be on the sports persons and their respective federations to ensure that these supplements don’t contain banned substances as per the updated World Anti-Doping Agency list, it was decided at the meeting attended also by sports ministry officials and SAI officials.
The issue of contaminated sports supplements came to the fore when the women’s 4×400 relay team tested positive for banned substances in 2011. The athletes, in their defence, said that they had consumed ‘contaminated supplements’ inadvertently which results in the positive tests.
“There needs to be proper monitoring of the sports supplements – with regard to the supply and the quality. Most of the sports persons buy supplements on their own and this process needs to be streamlined because it is difficult to monitor what each sportsperson is consuming. We have requested the sports ministry and SAI to come up with a policy when it comes to sports supplements,” a sports federation official who attended the meeting said.
The other aspect that needs shoring up, according to the sports ministry is the mental-conditioning one.
“This is one aspect we need to give greater emphasis on. With less than a year to go for the Olympics, it is important to ensure that everything is being done to give our athletes the best possible chance to win a medal. Towards this goal, the sports ministry is looking at hiring mental conditioning coaches,” an official said.
SAI director general Injeti Srinivas said that proposals submitted by athletes for foreign training in the run-up to the Rio Olympics would be cleared at the earliest. Talking about the cases of triple-jumper Arpinder Singh and shot-putter Inderjeet Singh, Srinivas said: “They should approach us. Whatever support we can give, we will give the athletes.”
Both athletes have insisted on taking their personal coaches along with them for their respective training stints abroad. “If they insist on taking more people, we have to finally agree with that. Maybe the government may have to spend Rs 10 lakh extra for an additional person and we can bear it,” he said.
Inderjeet said on Thursday that he had submitted a proposal to train at an athletics club in Pennsylvania where others athletes have trained in the past, but it has not been cleared.
“My proposal is to train for five months and it will cost Rs 30 lakh. I want to take both Sakthi Singh and Pritam Singh as personal coaches. However, my proposal has not been cleared yet under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS),” Inderjeet said.
Talking about athletes who have not been included in the TOPS, Srinivas said, “Even those who are not included in this, they are getting funds under the National Sports Development Fund or the Annual Calender for Training and Competition (given to federations by the sports ministry).”
Sonowal said that following the discussion with various officials of sports federations it was concluded that India could win at least 10 medals at the Rio Olympics.
“Our target is to win more medals in the Rio Olympics. I think we can win 10-plus medals in Rio Games. We wanted to know about the preparations and initiatives of the federations for Rio Olympics and about the support they are giving to the athletes,” Sonowal said.