When S. Dhanalakshmi clocked an impressive 11.26s (joint-second in India’s all-time list) for the 100m recently in Turkey and then followed it up with a sterling 22.89s 200m in Kazakhstan, many were stunned.
Equally stunning were B. Aishwarya’s 14.14m triple jump — it broke Mayookha Johny’s 11-year-old national record and made her this year’s Asian No. 1 — and her 6.73m long jump at last month’s Inter-State Nationals in Chennai.
But now, the two stars have failed dope tests and their departure to next week’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham looks very doubtful.
The Athletics Integrity Unit, formed by World Athletics a few years ago to fight doping in the sport, had tested Tamil Nadu’s Dhanalakshmi at Almaty (Kazakhstan) recently in an out-of-competition test (according to sources), while Karnataka’s Aishwarya failed an in-competition test conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) at the Chennai Nationals.
“I just heard the news and (was) shocked,” B. P. Aiyappa, Aishwarya’s coach, told Sportstar on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, sources in the Thiruvananthapuram SAI-LNCPE centre, the national camp venue for sprinters, quartermilers and relays, confirmed that Dhanalakshmi had packed her bags and left the place a few days ago.
In the ascendant
National camper Dhanalakshmi came into prominence when she finished third in her first-ever quartermile at last year’s 4x400m mixed relay trials and went to the Tokyo Olympics. In recent meets, she upset top names like Dutee Chand and Hima Das and emerged as the country’s fastest 100 and 200m runner this year.
All her personal bests, in the 100, 200 and 400m, came last month. Dhanalakshmi also qualified for the ongoing World Championships in the USA through the world-rankings route, but said that she could not go to Oregon because of visa issues. Strangely, though her name appeared in Road to Oregon chart, her name did not figure in the Worlds’ 200m entry list.
Aishwarya’s progress in the last couple of years have raised eyebrows. Two years ago, she made a 6.25m long jump and a 13.29m triple jump. Her long-jump mark has improved to 6.52m (in 2021) and 6.73 this year, and her triple jump has improved to 13.55 (in 2021) and 14.14 this year.
Many reputed athletes such as discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur (sixth, Tokyo Olympics), Asian silver medallist javelin thrower Shivpal Singh, quartermiler M. R. Poovamma (Asian Games 4x400m relay gold medallist), former national javelin record holder Rajender Singh, and some new national gold medallists (such as Taranjeet Kaur and K. Naresh Kumar – 2021 Warangal National Open 100m champions) have failed dope tests in the last 12 months. Now, with Dhanalakshmi and Aishwarya joining the list, this is perhaps the worst year for Indian athletics after the 2011 scandal when six women quartermilers were caught in the doping net.