Left red-faced after 22 junior scullers failed dope tests, the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) on Tuesday was at a loss to explain the embarrassment and said food supplements could be a reason behind the fiasco. RFI general secretary MV Sriram said that food supplements consumed by junior India campers would be investigated. Sriram also said that a majority of the 22 athletes , who tested positive for probenecid (a fat cutter), were hand-picked from government’s flagship project ‘Khelo India’.
“It has to be the food supplements used which has resulted in 22 cases out of the 32 tested in July last year in Hyderabad. We are also perplexed by the findings. Obviously all due procedures will be followed,” Sriram told PTI. “We will assess the charges and find out what really went wrong,” the veteran official, who took charge in April this year, said.
Sriram also said that it has been almost a year since the National Anti Doping Agency conducted out of competition testing. “It was a junior camp comprising of athletes mostly selected from Khelo India, which is a government project,” he revealed.
So how many of the 22 are Khelo India products? “That’s what we are trying to find out. But majority are from Khelo,” he said. “Most of them have now crossed over 18 years. We are analysing everything. What supplements were taken, which coach recommended them,” Sriram added.
Sriram also said that all the rowers have decided against testing of their B samples in the light of their inability to travel to Doha due to the COVID-19 related restrictions. Asked if coaching trio of Jenil Krishnan, Dalvir Singh Rathore and Amit Singh will be hauled up as it’s responsibility of the coaches to ensure that players, in this case minors, are aware of the anti-doping rules, Sriram answered in negative.
“It’s like jumping to conclusion without proper investigations. Our coaches are above board. This is unfair that people are calling it a institutionalised thing. People forget that rowing has got us medals at international meets since 1982,” he asserted. “Can you rule out if there has been any lapse in testing procedure? You keep the urine sample for one year in whatever conditions in Delhi (at the suspended National Dope Testing Laboratory) and then send it to Qatar.
“These youngsters have not yet been proven guilty. For all you know they can be exonerated tomorrow,” said Sriram. “The SAI doctors have visited our national camp. Even Mr Agarwal (NADA DG Navin Agarwal) has visited our camp,” he concluded.