AFI reviews policy on non-campers

The Athletics Federation of India has (AFI) decided to review its decision to bar athletes who are outside national camps from selection to Indian teams in international competitions.

Two of the athletes who qualified for the Rio Olympics while training outside the camps, shot putter Inderjeet Singh and sprinter Dharambir Singh, tested positive prior to the Games and were suspended.   -  AP

The Athletics Federation of India has (AFI) decided to review its decision to bar athletes who are outside national camps from selection to Indian teams in international competitions.

At its Executive Council meeting held here on February 25 and 26, it was initially decided to keep athletes training outside national camps out of the national teams, but following objections raised by several senior members it was decided to review the decision.

For this purpose, the AFI has set up a five-member committee including its Selection Committee Chairman, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, Chief National Coach Bahadur Singh and former Chief Coach J. S. Saini.

AFI president Adille Sumarivalla said the federation had no objection to athletes training at established centres abroad. Incidentally, Usha School of Athletics at Kozhikode, Kerala, is an approved centre for National camp.

The decision to clamp down on “individual training” was a sequel to the oft-repeated complaints that athletes who trained outside camps tended to resort to doping. The assumption was the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) generally concentrated on the campers in its out-of-competition testing, thus leaving the “outsiders” vulnerable to the menace.

Two of the athletes who qualified for the Rio Olympics while training outside the camps, shot putter Inderjeet Singh and sprinter Dharambir Singh, tested positive prior to the Games and were suspended. Dharambir has since copped an eight-year suspension as it happened to be his second offence. Proceedings in the Inderjeet case are continuing.

The fact that athletes who were in the national camp were also prone to doping and were in fact caught in the past was stressed at the meeting, with pointed reference to woman 400m runner Priyanka Panwar, before the EC decided to review the decision.

Priyanka, currently under provisional suspension, was charged with a second doping offence before the Olympics. She could not make the team to Rio and is now faced with a suspension that may go up to eight years.

Priyanka and five other women 400m runners (Mandeep Kaur, Ashwini Akkunji, Jauna Murmu, Tiana Mary Thomas and Sini Jose) were caught for doping in 2011 while being part of the national camp and served two-year suspensions.

The man at the centre of the 2011 doping controversy, Ukrainian coach Yuriy Ogorodnik, was sacked then but brought back to guide the relay teams in their Olympic preparations. With the men and women’s 4x400m teams failing to make the Olympics final it was decided by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) not to recall him this year. Effort by the AFI later to retain him was rejected by the Ministry.

The AFI is planning to enter the men and women’s 4x400m relay teams in the World Relays at Nassau, Bahamas, on April 22 and 23. The top eight teams there would automatically qualify for the World championships in London in August. The rest eight would be decided on rankings based on timings achieved by teams from January 2016.

The Indian men’s team (3:00.91) and women’s quartet (3:27.88), with their timings achieved at Bengaluru on July 10 last year are well placed to qualify for the World championships.

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