Anju Bobby George: 'Qualification period freeze, a wise move'

Anju Bobby George says athletes might take illegal drugs since dope-testers cannot travel freely to take out-of-competition tests owing to the lockdown.

File photo: Anju Bobby George explains why freezing the Olympic qualification period is a wise move   -  K. R. DEEPAK

With each new day bringing a fresh load of worrying news, Anju Bobby George feels that the World Athletics' decision to freeze the 2021 Tokyo Olympics qualification period for eight months, till November 30, is a wise move.

“They did this is because there is a high chance of cheats taking illegal drugs during this coronavirus period since dope-testers cannot travel freely to take out-of-competition tests owing to the lockdown in many places,” said Anju, the country's lone World Championship medallist with her long jump bronze in 2003 in Paris, in a chat with Sportstar from Bengaluru on Wednesday evening.

“Athletes can easily hide somewhere now, take drugs, qualify for the Olympics and can do better performances.”

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Anju, the chairperson of the Indian Olympic Association's Athletes Commission, revealed that many raised red flags over the dope issue when the qualification period extension was discussed recently.

“We had a con-call between the athletes commissions of various countries by the end of March. All of us were worried that cheaters could benefit. That could be a reason why they stopped the Olympic qualification period and fixed a December 1 date to reopen the entry doors,” she said.

“We feel that proper testing will happen only from January next year. So, to some extent, that will dissuade the dope cheats everywhere...even in India.”

Start Meets when Olympic doors open

Anju feels that it will not be proper to conduct national competitions before the Olympic qualification doors open on December 1.

“If there is no qualification chance, I don't think it will be wise to conduct national competitions. And look at the way coronavirus is spreading in the country, I don't think athletes can have enough time to train if they have competitions in September or October.

“Right now, we don't know how many days this situation will extend and when they can travel freely from one place to another. Since athletes have travel a lot for competitions, we have to be careful about all these things. Nothing can be more important than the safety and health of our athletes.”

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Stars like long jumper M. Sreeshankar, javelin thrower Annu Rani, shot putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor will be among those who will anxiously wait for the qualification doors to open.

Anju said she was very worried about the coronavirus pandemic.

'We are small and insignificant'

“When you see that the UK Prime Minister is in the ICU, you feel a certain helplessness about the whole thing. However big you are, you are nothing in front of a virus which you can't even see. It just shows how small and insignificant you are in this world.

“When this virus runs its course, many will change their perception towards life itself. People will not be the same, they will learn to value friendships, we will see a new world.”