Updated: March 14, 2021 10:12:52 am
A women’s 400-metre track star – a multiple Asian Games medallist and a beneficiary of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) – has failed a dope test. The athlete is currently in the national camp organised by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala.
The positive test result comes after samples were collected by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and is a setback to the 4×400 metre women’s and mixed relay squads ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
India’s 400-metre athletes are trained by foreign coach Galina Bukharina from Russia. Radhakrishnan Nair is the chief national coach. With the Tokyo Games just months away, a national camper testing positive comes as an embarrassment for the AFI.
The 4×400 metre relay is an event in which Indian teams have won medals at the Asian Games and Asian Championships.
Though the 4×400 metre women’s team is yet to qualify for the Olympics, the AFI had pinned a lot of hope on the quarter milers.
However, the women’s 4×400 metre relay squads have had a history of failing dope tests. The team which won gold at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in 2010 were dope tainted.
Another athlete, a race walker, who is not in the camp, has also tested positive.
Two Olympic Core Probables failed dope tests, as confirmed by NADA’s director general Navin Agarwal on Saturday. “I can confirm that at least two athletes who are part of the Olympic Core Probables list have failed dope tests. These were tests conducted by NADA. I cannot at this point name the sport nor give further details,” Agarwal told The Sunday Express.
Sports in which ‘Olympic Core Probables’ were tested are athletics, shooting, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, table tennis and rowing.
The AFI has a policy of not including non-campers in relay teams, but the star athlete who has been a regular camper and one of the most experienced runners testing positive will raise questions about India’s preparation for the Olympic Games.
With Hima Das, the 2018 Junior World Champion in the 400m event, switching to the shorter sprints as she is still recovering from a back injury, and Saritaben Gayakwad not part of the national camp, there are concerns over the 400-metre future of three of the four runners from the relay squad that won the gold medal at the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018.
Last October, AFI president Adille Sumariwalla had warned athletes not to take advantage of dope testing being temporarily suspended because of the pandemic. “NADA is not doing testing now. But I am telling the athletes and coaches do not think that because of this they can take banned drugs and get away,” Sumariwalla said at the federation’s Annual General Body Meeting.
Since February, according to NADA’s latest newsletter, 148 dope samples, including 15 blood samples, were collected from athletes.
In track and field events, in-competition tests were conducted at the National Open Race Walking competition in Ranchi, the first and second leg of the Indian Grand Prix series in Patiala, and at the 36th National Junior Athletics Championship in Guwahati.
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