Athletes adviced not to train in dope-tainted countries

"It is not a directive. Just an advisory to be careful when you go and train ahead of the Olympics. All we are saying is that special precautions have to be exercised," said a Ministry official.

India's Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose, Mandeep Kaur and Manjeet Kaur celebrate after winning gold in the women's 4x400 metre relay during the 16th Asian Games 2010 at Aoti Main Stadium in Guangzhou. The team had tested positive for banned substances in 2011.   -  PTI

The Union Sports Ministry has issued an advisory to National sports federations to take care that athletes are not sent for training to dope-tainted countries.

“It is not a directive. Just an advisory to be careful when you go and train ahead of the Olympics. All we are saying is that special precautions have to be exercised,” said a Ministry official.

The Ministry’s concerns arise from some athlete falling prey to a sabotage by opponents or the coaches. “They can make a stupid mistake even though there is awareness regarding the do’s and don’ts.”

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The Ministry has cautioned the federations to avoid countries with a shady reputation as far as doping in sport is concerned. Russia and Italy are among the prominent countries the Ministry has asked the federations to exclude from their lists for training.

“We are third in the list of doping but India is in the low-doping category as far as the elite athletes are concerned. The bulk of offences have come due to lack of awareness, some silly mistake among the juniors in low level competition,” the official added.

The Ministry, having spent a huge amount of funds in the athletes’ preparations for the Olympics, obviously does not want the programme to be spoilt at this stage. “We are approaching the Olympics with maximum precaution. Years of hard work can go down the drain with some silly error or misguidance from a coach or fellow athlete,” the official noted.

The ministry’s intentions to “fence the athletes from any potential of doping” is well meaning but ironically same policy has not been followed in the appointment of the athletics coach for the 400m runners and relay teams — Yuri Ogorodnik — despite the widespread opposition to his return after he had been suspended when the women’s 4x400 relay team had tested positive for banned substances in 2011.

Ogorodnik was recalled on the insistence of AFI and on assurances given by the latter. But ironically, again, the first training stint under the Ukrainian coach for the 4x400m relay team, which is yet to ensure its Olympic qualification, was at Antalaya, Turkey. That country, it may be recalled, was second to Russia in the 2013 “dope standings” in which also India came third.

“We don’t have the concept of blacklisting countries notorious for the doping practice because it can become a diplomatic issue. But we can always caution our athletes and ask them not to be casual when so close to the Olympics,” the official observed.

In case a federation insisted on sending its athletes to a country against the advisory, the ministry, confirmed the official, would not fund such training.