Lax enforcement has led to Indian weightlifters regularly testing positive for banned substances.
The Indian Weightlifting Federation is persistently under siege. In August, it emerged from a ban imposed by the International Weightlifting Federation last year after six weightlifters were caught doping. It took a while for the Indian federation to pay the $500,000 fine and gain re-entry. But not long after, Sanamacha Chanu, a female weightlifter, tested positive for methylhexaneamine. It was Chanu’s second offence after 2004, when she was placed fourth in the 53 kg category at the Athens Olympics, and subsequently disqualified after testing positive.
Just like last time, Chanu says, she had no idea that the substance was banned. “I had five to six tests earlier, which all came out negative. On 28 July, I had a test in Patiala, which also came out negative. Then, during the Commonwealth Games selection trials, they found me positive for this substance which I can’t spell properly,” she told NDTV.
In 2006, Prameela Valli Bodari and Tajinder Singh tested positive at the Melbourne Olympics, while Shailaja Pujari and Edwin Raju were found positive before the event and suspended until 2008. In 2009, six more weightlifters were suspended. Among them, again, was Pujari. In 2010, she was banned for life. It was a hard fall for Pujari, who eight years ago had won gold in three events in the 75 kg category, and returned home to a Rs 30 lakh reward by the Andhra government.
Lax enforcement and, according to athletes, an absence of instruction on banned ingredients has led to Indian weightlifters regularly failing inspections. Still, the optimistic will be encouraged by the CWG organising committee’s efforts. With anti-doping agency Wada, it plans to organise an ‘athlete outreach’ programme to inform participants about the perils of doping (starting perhaps with how to spell ‘methylhexaneamine’).