TWO-TIME Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sanjita Chanu has been provisionally suspended for consuming performance enhancing drugs, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) said in a statement.
The 24-year-old tested positive for testosterone, which improves muscle strength and endurance. Reacting to the IWF statement, a top official of the Indian federation defended its star athlete, hinting at foul play.
If proven guilty of drug abuse, Chanu can be suspended for up to four years, which will end her hopes of competing in this year’s Asian Games as well as the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“IWF reports that the sample of Ms Sanjita Chanu Khumukcham has returned an Adverse Analytical Finding for Testosterone (S1.1 Anabolic Agents). As a consequence, the Athlete is provisionally suspended in view of a potential anti-doping rule violation. In any case where it is determined that the Athlete did not commit an anti-doping rule violation, the relevant decision will also be published,” the IWF said.
It is learnt that Chanu failed an out-of-competition test conducted in Las Vegas last November. The six-month delay in collecting the sample and announcing the result has raised a few eyebrows.
Sahdev Yadav, secretary general, Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF), said they have requested a ‘B’ sample test and sought clarification from the IWF over the delay.
“We believe Chanu is innocent and have requested that her ‘B’ sample be tested. The six-month gap in announcing the result of the test is surprising. We have already lodged an appeal with the international federation and are awaiting the outcome,” Yadav told The Indian Express.
As a country with one of the most dope offenders in weightlifting, India has been on the watchlist of the international federation. According to the World Anti Doping Agency, out of 69 athletes from the country who failed a dope test in 2016, 14 were weightlifters. In April, the international federation imposed sanctions on India along with eight other countries by limiting the number of entries for the Tokyo Games to just two men and two women. This action was taken against nations that had 10-19 doping violations from 2008 to 2020.
The Indian federation had hoped that the superlative performances of its lifters at the Gold Coast Games, where the team returned with nine medals including five gold, would overshadow the doping controversies it has been engulfed in.
Chanu lifted a total of 192kg in the 53kg category to win her second successive CWG medal. Her performances prompted the government to extend financial support for her till the Asian Games, where she was an outside favourite for a medal owing to the high level of competition compared to the CWG. With her Asian Games ambitions now under a cloud, and an impending suspension, that support is likely to be stopped.