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Indian athletes drop the baton

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Gordon Farquhar | 12:20 UK time, Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The sight and sound of the Indian women's 4X400m relay team being roared home to win gold was one of the highlights of the Commonwealth games in Delhi last year.

The nation had been yearning for track and field success, and here was a team of bright talents, role models for women in India, beating the best of the rest of the Commonwealth.

That landmark success has been tarnished with the news that three of the four members of the team have failed drug tests over the last few days. Ashwini Akkunji, Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose have all tested positive for anabolic steroids, and are suspended pending further investigation.

Apart from the Commonwealth gold medal, what all three have in common is a Ukrainian coach named Yuri Ogrodnik. Well, they had him in common, but he's now been sacked, according to the Indian sports minister, Ajay Maken.

Ashwini Akkunji (left), Sini Jose (far right) and Mandeep Kaur (second from right) won Commonwealth golds

Ashwini Akkunji (left), Sini Jose (far right) and Mandeep Kaur (second from right) won Commonwealth golds. Photo: Reuters

In fact, six members of the women's 400m squad, coached by Ogrodnik have now been suspended after a spate of positive tests for different steroids. The Indian sports ministry is in a spin: Akkunji was the poster girl of Indian athletics, a double gold medallist at the Asian games, and expected to go on to even greater things. There were genuine hopes of a medal at the London Olympics, but that dream now seems shattered.

Minister Maken hasn't pulled any punches in his reaction to the scandal: "The athletes have disgraced the whole nation and it's very disturbing for us," he said.

"Athletes will get their punishment in the form of suspensions, bans and losing their medals... but we can't let the coaches and any official involved in this episode get away scot-free."

At the moment, there's no suggestion Ogrodnik has done anything wrong, and he's reported in India as saying he knew nothing of any drug taking among his athletes. Ajay Maken is unimpressed: "The coach says he didn't know that the athletes were taking banned substances then I think he's all the more responsible for what's happened. The coach is supposed to know what they're taking and tell them what to take."

The tests were apparently carried out either at the national training camp in Patiala, in the Northern state of Punjab, or after a track meeting in the Southern city of Bangalore in late June.

The athletes have all protested their innocence and blamed contaminated food supplements for the results, but the strict liability rule allows no such excuses.

Drug tests are split into two samples, and the second or B samples given by the women will now be tested. They almost never contradict the A samples. There will be a disciplinary process, and a two year ban would be the normal outcome.

India's national anti-doping agency recently revealed that 122 positive tests had been recorded in an 11 month period to April of this year, mostly among wrestlers and weightlifters.

As a result they said they intended to increase the amount of testing, and carry out raids on athlete's rooms where drugs use was suspected. Ajay Maken has called for further action, including better co-ordination with customs agencies to restrict the import of banned performance enhancing drugs, and has instigated a full inquiry into the current problems.

Lord Coe, in the stadium at the time, said that the success of the women's relay team at the Delhi games "may just have changed the direction of track and field... not only in India, but in Asia." The events of the last few days have surely derailed that hope.


  • Comment number 1.

    I am disgusted and disappointed by this news as an Indian.I am pleasantly surprised though the powers that be are showing some resolve to clean this up.It is better to reach a clean last place finish than a tainted medal.Success is important but not at this cost.

  • Comment number 2.

    Postpone the Olympics; it just won't be the same without these athletes.

  • Comment number 3.

    Quite a few comments on Tom Fordyce's blog about how British drugs testing is far more stringent than the rest of the world and puts us at a disadvantage. As a cricket fan first and foremost I am frequently depressed by the tales of corruption that emerge from the subcontinent. The Indian Authorities deserve congratulations for not succumbing to corruption and trying to cover up the truth behind what was THE big story of the Commonwealth games for them.

    Its a depressing tale, but every one of these stories needs to be viewed in a positive light: more guilty atheletes are caught and this will all help to deter the clean athletes who may have previously considered taking the risk.

  • Comment number 4.

    When I was travelling in India I met someone who told me that essentially unless you want to take performance enhancers at a young age there is no point in trying to get into athletics as a teenager in India. Obviously I can't remember the exact conversation (or his age) but he seemed to be talking about an amateur level of athletics.

    I really hope that this can be cleaned up and their actions are successful but I think it is an issue which runs deep. Indian athletes have a lot to contribute to their sports and I hope they really are able to progress from 2012 onward.

  • Comment number 5.

    It shows that there are bad people in the world. I'm disgusted. I thought everyone was good.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a loss, what's the point in watching the London Olympics now...

  • Comment number 7.

    #2 postpone the Olympics? Absolutely not.

    Hang on though - why not after all. I might get tickets for the re-scheduled ones.

    Let's all jump on the bandwagon - postpone the Olympics now.

  • Comment number 8.

    India has been consistently at the bottom of olympics table. These steroids were the only means for these athletes to win some medals... I am totally disappointed and completely agree with #2!

  • Comment number 9.

    Why do you want to postpone the Olympics, the Olympics don't need or want any athletes who are prepared to cheat to win and deprive the athletes who work hard to get to the top of their ligitimate right of winning a medal. Indian and Indians should be proud that the authorities are getting rid of the cheats who currupt the sport and the name of Indian. I totally disagree with number2s comments. I mean is 2 and others who have supported his comments they want india represented by drugs cheats I don't think so.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lol at #2!!

    122 positive tests in 11 months!!! jeez!

  • Comment number 11.

    Salvadore007 has had his sense of humour surgically removed by the looks of it.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hahahaha superbobbyzamo you should be a comedian

  • Comment number 13.

    A cheating Indian never i dont believe it!!! Well i mean you can't blame the "three idiots" (Bollywood movie) for taking performance enhancing substances the amount of pressure which is put on Indian athletes to perform is concerning as well as harmful to the psychological mind of these three indian cheats! Hopefully these three ugly ladies should face lenghty and sunstancial bans!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    I blame biased Western Media.

  • Comment number 15.

    A massive shame and disappointment that this has happened.

    On a separate note #13 congratulations on the sloppy spelling and language you have used to India-bash, worst troll ever....

  • Comment number 16.

    When India won the relay gold medal at the Commonwealth Games we all looked at each other and said: 'What'. The reason being that these athletes were unknown prior to the event. There was obviously something seriously wrong so I am not at all surprised at this news.

  • Comment number 17.

    James Autar - are you seriously suggesting that anybody watched the Commonwealth Games?! I'd like to know who "we" refers to in your post...

  • Comment number 18.

    We still come down to the very basic fact of sports, winners usually win and winners usually cheat. The question is not whether they take steroids or amphetamines, its whether they can get an edge over their rivals. I point out that, simple vitamin pills or a performance shoe, like the swimming suit debacle, are and were considered cheating. We want athletes to run faster jump higher and throw further, guess what kids, we are human and the level we can achieve without drugs is fast getting to the limit. Expect a drug riddled future or sports like athletics becomes boring.

  • Comment number 19.

    A 2 year ban is laughable. Time again these cheats tarnish sport, then claim ignorance or naivety and then eventually all is forgiven.

    Until the punishment for cheating using anabolic steroids is a strictly enforced lifetime ban, it will keep happening.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    #16 and #17 - i am part of the 'we'. Just looking at the medal table from previous commonwealths and performances before and after of the medal winners from india, and it was pretty obvious. What is disappointed for me, as a coach of athletes who finished behind them, that the medals have been handed out, the newspapers recycled. Very sad for all those athletes who worked tirelessly to give of their best and denied by cheating. On a positive note- at least they have been caught- however the cynic in me suspects that this is done post-commonwealths to avoid embarrassment in 2012.

  • Comment number 22.

    CWG officials are in jail and now the athletes have been caught as well. Way to go..
    On a different note, why not have a parallel event in each Olympic discipline which allows a drug free for all. Lets have some fun with all the drug addicts competing...i am sure the public will like it more than the real events....the way things are these days. If someone can run 100m in 5s flat with aid of drugs, what is anyone's problem...have fun watching it....or else watch Usain win in 9.58s.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Time to change the strict liability law. If it's in your system, you are out for life. A cheat is a cheat. As for the coaches? If proved to be condoning or encouraging drug use, a 5 year prison term, a half million pound fine and a lifetime ban ought to focus minds!

  • Comment number 25.

    Shock. Horror. Athletes taking performance enhancing drugs? Who would have thought of that?

    On a serious note, 99.9% of athletes take drugs. It's all about pi**ing it out in time.

  • Comment number 26.

    remember being told of inter university athletics meet where toilets were allegedly littered with needles and syringes....and that was 12 years ago. Totally agree wih #4

  • Comment number 27.

    It's all Ghandi's fault.....

  • Comment number 28.

    I think it should either be unrestricted drug taking or a single, standard Olympic steroid.

  • Comment number 29.


    Uruguay beat Peru in one semi final on Tuesday night but look at the BBC site and you wouldn't even know the tournament was taking place.

    If you want to know how Dumbarton got on in their friendly with Partick Thistle - no worries. Uruguay/Peru, from the continent that brought us Pele, Maradona, Alfredo de Stefano, Lionel Messi? Look elsewhere because you'll find nothing here!

    (Dumbarton beat Thistle 4-1)

  • Comment number 30.

    Uruguay will play Paraguay in Sunday's final.
    Paraguay beat Venezuela on penalties in Wednesday's semi.
    For all the latest Copa America news go to................


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