The final day of the Delhi State Athletics Championship descended into chaos this week when anti-doping officials turned up with a host of athletes making a quick exit to avoid giving samples. Indian sport has been hit with a number of doping scandals in recent years and the World Anti-Doping Agency rank the country second in the number of violations behind Russia.
The doping crisis was more evident than ever at the Delhi State Athletics Championship this week when officials from the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) turned up on the final day of the event. According to the Indian Express newspaper, half of the athletes scheduled to compete on Tuesday withdrew from the competition before giving samples over to the anti-doping officials.
The men’s 100m final saw just one athlete line up in the starting blocks with the rest of the sprinters reportedly blaming their withdrawals on ‘cramps’ or ‘muscle strains’. There was even more drama in the junior steeplechase event when a girl was said to have continued running long after crossing the finish line.
“We have eight finalists in the track events, but only three or four turned up (on Tuesday). This is the state of affairs,” a coach told The Indian Express. “In the junior steeplechase event, a girl continued to run even after crossing the finish line. A doping control officer had to chase her to get her sample.”
NADA officials arrived at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium after a video went viral on social media which appeared to show a washroom inside the arena with piles of used syringes. Lalit Kumar was the sole runner in the men’s 100m final and he was taken aback by the whole ordeal.
“I was really looking forward to running against the best athletes, but nobody turned up,” he said. “Everyone was scared of getting tested. As an athlete, I feel very hurt and let down.”
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Organisers of the championship have threatened to come down hard on the athletes who withdrew if they end up returning positive test results. “An odd withdrawal is understandable, but when seven runners withdraw, you know something is fishy,” Secretary of the Delhi Athletics Association (DAA), Sandeep Mehta, told Reuters.
“There are some throwers as well who disappeared before competition and all of them should be tested by NADA. We are sharing with them details of the athletes who fled.
“If any of them return adverse results, we will ban them in Delhi and will recommend the Athletics Federation of India does the same.” It was only last month that top Indian sprinter Dutee Chand was banned from competing for four years after returning two negative doping tests.
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