The Athletics Federation of India Secretary C. K. Valson says he wants India to have its largest ever athletics contingent at an Olympic Games at Rio 2016, beating the 24-member group that went to Sydney 2000. On the sidelines of the Junior Federation Cup National athletics championships here, Valson spoke to Sportstar on the Olympics, doping, and more. The excerpts:

Question: At least 18 athletes are sure to go to Rio; how many more do you expect?

Answer: To my mind it should be the biggest team India has ever sent. Then it means we are closer to a medal. In the Federation Cup, quite a few athletes came close to qualifying. Dutee Chand created a new national record in the 100m (11.33) but missed qualification by 0.01s. Srabani Nanda (11.45) and H.M. Jyothi (11.46) came close. We want to give them better exposure in international events. Tajinderpal Singh Toor, who won the men’s shot put (19.93), has a fair chance of qualifying.

The women’s 4x400 team is in danger of missing out...

We are trying our level best to send them wherever possible; we will get them on the European circuit. If both our relay teams qualify, we will have a record number of participants.

What is the AFI’s target for Rio?

We may have a medal chance in walking. Russia, which is the leading country in walking, is out, and if our walkers do slightly better than what they are doing now, we can win a medal. You never know what can happen if there are disqualifications.

Were you surprised to see three men qualifying in the marathon, a first since 1960?

We have a number of marathons in our cities. If they are certified, we have no problem. But there are many which are not run as per norms. It’s become a money-making business. For example, if you are a 10,000-m runner, you can run a marathon. But ultimately what will happen to the 10,000-m? The whole year we train them, but they go to these events for money and when they come back to the real event, they won’t be able to perform well. So all our efforts go to waste. These people are hopping from one city to another for marathons. Not because they want to get the timing or anything, but because the money is attractive.

Sudha Singh and Lalita Babar have qualified in the marathon and the 3,000m steeplechase...

They will only run the 3,000m steeplechase at Rio. I really cannot say if the marathons helped them or not for this event. That has to be decided by the coach. But he has proven that they have done better. In the Federation Cup, Lalita did better (9:27.09) than what she did in Beijing last year (9:27.86).

For the year 2014, India was third in WADA’s list of anti-doping violations. Out of the 96, 29 came from athletics...

This is where everyone is confused. WADA says we (AFI) are the defaulters. But if you see the list, they are mainly either from school or university competitions. We are not involved in either. We only control the national camps and national championships. For example in Tamil Nadu, there was the Chief Minister’s Trophy – these are all not controlled by AFI. If you throw 5 lakh rupees for the first place, naturally they will try for a short cut. In departmental meets, they dope to get promotion. I’m not saying athletes from the national camps are totally clean. There may be one or two and even they are not seasoned athletes.