P.T. Usha: 'Include non-campers in relay team but put them in RTP'

The runners should be tested regularly during off-season, says P.T. Usha.

File picture of P.T. Usha.

For years, the quartermilers have enjoyed special status in Indian athletics. They have also been sent for long camps abroad frequently, to countries like Turkey, Poland and the Czech Republic. That’s because the Athletics Federation of India had been harping for years that the 4x400m relay team, especially women, have a chance to win an Olympic medal.

Unable to enter a team

Now, three years after India won the women’s mile relay gold at the Jakarta Asian Games, the squad has virtually been destroyed at the national camp. India could not even put together a women’s 4x400m team and withdrew from the World Relays in Poland in May and also failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with prominent runners, including V.K. Vismaya, M.R. Poovamma, Jisna Mathew, Anjali Devi and Kiran Pahal, either injured or in poor form.

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READ: AFI relaxes entry standards for Under-23 Nationals

Bengaluru’s 18-year-old Priya H. Mohan is the country’s fastest quartermiler this year but she was not sent to the Olympics as she was not a national camper. However, she ran the relays at the Nairobi under-20 Worlds in August, after a 10-day national camp in Patiala, and won bronze in the mixed event and finished fourth in the women’s relay.

India's women's relay team on the podium after bagging gold in 2018 Asian Games. | Photo Credit: PTI

 

The calendar is packed next year with the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Worlds and under-20 Worlds and the search for promising quartermilers will also be on in the under-23 Nationals which begin in New Delhi on Monday.

So, is it time for the AFI to change the rule that only national campers be allowed in relay teams for international majors? Should non-campers be included too?

“If they are in the National Anti-Doping Agency’s registered testing pool (RTP) and if they are tested regularly during off-season, then they can be considered for the relay team,” P.T. Usha told Sportstar.

READ: National Anti-Doping Agency improves testing in Olympic year, still a long way to go

“If they are not brought under RTP and if out-of-competition tests are not conducted regularly, it will be a big risk. Either their performance will be down or they will be caught.”

There have been some very impressive performances in recent weeks and Usha felt that the net should be cast wide to catch the dope cheats.

“In juniors and seniors, athletes who come up with extraordinary performances should be included in the RTP, giving their whereabouts and tested frequently. After that, if their performances are considered for the relay team, then we need not be worried about them.

“Not just the relays, even athletes in other events who come up with sudden, impressive performances should be in the RTP.

“And in the national camp, the 4x400m relay men and women should all be in the RTP, also the 4x100m relay runners.”