Dutee Chand was at the office of her employers Odisha Mining Corporation Limited in Bhubaneshwar to complete some pending work when she received a call from an Athletics Federation of India official. Chand was a tad perplexed and wondered what it could be about. The Indian team for the World Championships had left for London a day earlier and Chand wasn’t part of it after being unable to meet qualifying standards. Yet as luck would have it, she will be in London after all to participate in the women’s 100 metres.
The 21-year-old was told by the official keep her passport ready and pack her bags. Chand’s fortunes changed because the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had slots to fill in the event as only 35 athletes qualified for 56 available slots. The remaining slots were to be filled by athletes according to their rankings and Chand’s 11.30 seconds placed her at 44th in the world.
Chand’s participation will be significant because the IAAF is all set to present fresh evidence at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in their push to reinstate hyperandrogenism guidelines. Chand had successfully challenged these guidelines under which she had been banned. The IAAF president Sebastian Coe while stating that the world body was going back to CAS with fresh evidence, which he claimed proved females with hyperandrogenism had an advantage, added that nobody who had qualified would be barred from participating in the World Championships.
“When I failed to qualify for the World Championships, I did wonder if I would be allowed to participate in the next edition. So, the opportunity to participate in London is like a second life for me. I had reached the final of the World Youth Championships in 2013, but it was a dream to represent Indian at the senior World Championships,” Chand said.
The qualifying standards for the women’s 100 metres of the World Championships is set at 11.26 seconds. Chand clocked 11.30 seconds in the second leg of the Indian Grand Prix in Delhi but could not breech 11.40 on three separate occasions. “I am confident of improving upon my personal best in London (11.24). Though I did not qualify for the World Championships initially, I have been training regularly. I am confident that I will be able to perform at my best on the big occasion,” she added.
An Athletics Federation of India official confirmed that they had accepted the invite for Chand from the IAAF. “We have been given 12 hours to confirm and we have said ‘yes’,” the official said. Chand could have qualified for the World Championships if she had won gold at the Asian Athletics Championships. But on the eve of the event in Bhubaneshwar, the IAAF announced it was going back to CAS with fresh evidence with regard to hyperandrogenism.
“This is like 2014 all over again when I was banned and then had to go to court to earn my right to compete. I had forgotten about the entire episode and about the case in CAS. Now it seems that the case has returned to haunt me. This is not easy for me because I am competing in the Asian Athletics Championships and want to qualify for the World Championships also. It is going to be difficult for me to train and compete while knowing that questions over my eligibility may rise again. I will leave it to my lawyers to deal with the case but I am not at ease,” Dutee had said.