Where is Nirmala Sheoran?

The untraceable Asian champion appears to be behind AFI’s new rule that bars athletes, who skip national camps, from competing in selection meets for the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

With just six months to go for the Commonwealth Games, the Athletics Federation of India and the Haryana association do not even know where Nirmala Sheoran is.   -  AFP

She is the Asian 400m champion, has powered the country to the continental relay gold and has been to the Rio Olympics and the London Worlds. But with just six months to go for the Commonwealth Games, the Athletics Federation of India and the Haryana association do not even know where Nirmala Sheoran is.

“I don’t know where she is training, she is not traceable. We have even gone to her house, we have tried to go everywhere through the State association, whatever addresses were available, we have done everything possible,” said Adille Sumariwalla, the AFI President, in a telephonic chat with Sportstar on Monday. “Her mobile and coach’s phone are switched off too,” said Raj Kumar Mittan, the Haryana association secretary.

READ: AFI to stop non-campers from selection meets

The AFI has now brought in a strong new rule, at its AGM in New Delhi on Sunday that bars athletes who skip national camps from competing in selection meets for the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

The AFI chief explained that since there is a feeling that non-campers may be on performance-enhancing drugs, a strong stand was needed.

“This (new rule) has been proposed by Haryana (by its association’s working president H.S. Bhadu). Because, Sonepat in Haryana has become one of the biggest centres for doping and we are fighting a losing battle,” said Sumariwalla.

READ: Athletics: AFI to fix qualification standards for CWG, Asiad

“We have told Nirmala that she can bring her coach to the national camp. And we have also told the South girls, like Anu Raghavan and Anilda Thomas (the two from Kerala were part of the Indian 4x400m relay team), to bring their coach Jaikumar to the camp.”

The AFI chief, Adille Sumariwalla, says since there is a feeling that non-campers may be on performance-enhancing drugs, a strong stand was needed.   -  H.S.Manjunath

 

Athletes who stay away from national camps appear to adopt a clever strategy when asked to return to the camp.

“They keep hiding here and there, telling us ‘we will come after 15 days, we will come now, we will come later’. When they think it is safe for them, they come,” said Sumariwalla. Some turn up just days before a major championship.

The AFI chief made it clear that athletes who were training abroad with AFI’s permission, like discus thrower Vikas Gowda and high jumper Tejaswin Shanker, will not come under the new rule but will have to prove their form in the final qualification meet in India.

“If we know their whereabouts, we have no problem. The AFI has fixed a qualification period (for CWG and Asian Games) and they can qualify from an international meet but they will still have to come to the final Indian qualification meet for a fitness trial.

“And if a discus thrower, who is throwing 65m, throws 64m in the Indian meet, it is okay. But if he throws 59m, he will not go.”