Sanjita Chanu: ‘I am innocent’

The Indian Weightlifting Federation says it will challenge Chanu’s suspension by the International Weightlifting Federation, convinced of her innocence.

Sanjita Chanu has stated she will contest her ban.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Indian weightlifter Sanjita Chanu has said she will challenge the provisional suspension imposed on her for allegedly failing a dope test. She insisted that she was innocent.

“I am innocent, I have not taken any banned substance. I will challenge this with the help of the national federation,” Sanjita told PTI on Friday.

Sanjita, who won a gold in the women’s 53kg category in the recent Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, was suspended by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) after testing positive for testosterone. The sample was taken during an ‘out-of-competition’ test prior to the World Championship in Anaheim (U.S.) in November last year.

However, she has the backing of the Indian Weightlifting Federation general secretary Sahdev Yadav, who said he was confident of the Manipuri’s innocence. “We don’t understand why the test results took so long. After the sample was taken, she competed in the World Championship in November last year and then she won a gold in the [Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast] in April.” he said.

‘Confident we’ll prove her innocence’

“We have written [to the IWF] that we will go for the ‘B’ sample test. After we get the results we will hire a top lawyer to present our case at the hearing [at the IWF]. I am sure Sanjita has not taken any banned drugs. I am confident we will prove her innocence,” he added.

Yadav also said there was no danger of India losing Sanjita’s gold medal from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.

Read: IWLF bats for Sanjita

If Sanjita’s ‘B’ sample also tests positive, she could be banned for four years from the sport.

Last month (May 9), the 24-year-old was included in the Sports Ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme for her Asian Games preparations. But her name could be struck off from the list if she is eventually ruled guilty of doping.

The latest dope setback will hit Indian weightlifting hard after a clean recent past, especially after Mirabai Chanu’s 48kg category gold medal in the World Championship.

First doping case

Sanjita’s is the first case of doping this year. Twelve Indian weightlifters had returned positive in tests conducted by the International Federation since 2008.

Recently, the IWF decided to punish offending countries by limiting their quotas for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the International Olympic Committee asked them to clean the tainted sport. It was decided that countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus will be given only two places each at Tokyo 2020. The new rules state that any nation with 20 or more doping violations from 2008 to 2020 will have just one man and one woman at the Games.

Countries with 10-19 doping violations over that same period will be limited to two men and two women in Tokyo. At least nine countries, including Bulgaria, Iran and India fall into that category.

The new rules will not have much of an impact on India as it hasn’t been sending more than two weightlifters each in men’s and women’s sections in the Olympics for the past few editions.