Dope cheats have no fear when they return after suspension, says Anju Bobby George

Nirmala Sheoran banned for doping, Jisna Mathew upgraded to silver medal, raising concerns about doping in Indian athletics.

Published : Mar 15, 2024 18:51 IST , KOCHI - 3 MINS READ

Anju Bobby George
Anju Bobby George | Photo Credit: Stan Rayan

Anju Bobby George | Photo Credit: Stan Rayan

Five years ago, Asian champion quarter-miler Nirmala Sheoran was punished with a four-year ban for failing a dope test and her results from August 2016 to November 2018 were disqualified. That meant that Nirmala would lose the 400m gold, which she won at the 2017 Bhubaneswar Asian Championships and Jisna Mathew, who had finished third in that final, should have received a silver medal.

“I have not got the silver medal yet. But after we wrote to the Athletics Federation of India, we got a letter saying that I have been upgraded from bronze to silver,” said Jisna.

The Odisha Government had also presented Rs 10 lakh to the gold medal winners, Rs 7.5 lakh for silver and Rs 5 lakh for bronze at the 2017 Asians held in that State, but Jisna has not heard anything about the prize money, which she was supposed to have got for the silver.

Nirmala, from Haryana, returned to national competition at last year’s Inter-State meet, and last month, she was handed an eight-year ban for a second doping violation, which happened last year.

Around the same time, news came in that hammer thrower K.M. Rachna had been banned for 12 years for a second doping offence.

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As the Indian track and field season begins in this Paris Olympics year with the 400m Indian Open in Thiruvananthapuram on March 18, a big question keeps popping up... are cheats getting more confident?

“Once they commit a crime, it looks like they have no fear when they do it a second time. Once they are caught, they have to undergo multiple tests before being cleared to compete. So they probably think since they have undergone so many tests, nobody will come to test them again,” said Anju Bobby George, the country’s lone female World Championships medallist, in a chat with Sportstar.

Find the window and go after them

“It’s tough to stop them, but we can try our maximum, and if there more athletes are testing positive, the others will get scared. We need to find the window when the athletes take these substances and test them rapidly during this period. Mostly, athletes take maximum dope during the development period, which could be from October to February. The development months are normally the build-up period, they should do more testing during this period. It will be cleared out in March, and from April our competitions start.”

Anju, also the AFI’s senior vice-president, felt that athletes who finish behind the cheats should get the medals and the other prizes that they missed out on.

“Normally athletes are supposed to lose their medals and other prizes received during the ban period. That is not happening, but we have to initiate action in this regard.”

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