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It’s not just about the lab

Thursday, 27 April 2006 - 11:37pm IST

The urine samples of Indian weightlifters Edwin Raju and Tejinder Singh were "purposely tampered by officials of the Sports Authority of India."

DNA demystifies why athletes cleared at home are caught abroad: sample tampering.

NEW DELHI: The urine samples of Indian weightlifters Edwin Raju and Tejinder Singh, who were caught by the anti-doping inspectors in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games last month, were “purposely tampered by officials of the Sports Authority of India so that the two lifters’ passage to Australia was guaranteed from home”.

The disclosure was made to DNA by a national weightlifting coach in NIS Patiala, who was there at the preparation camp for the Games. The national coach, who didn’t want to be named fearing that SAI would victimise him, said: “Each time after a scandal, top officials of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) try to find a scapegoat — they blame the Anti-Doping Lab in New Delhi for not possessing international accreditation. First, let us stop bungling with the sample collection. Testing comes at a later stage.”

Incidentally, IOA president Suresh Kalmadi, after returning from Melbourne, had also blamed the Anti-Dope lab (DCC) in New Delhi. He had said in an interview to DNA: “It’s the fault of the lab — it needs to be accreditated.” In the 2004 Olympics, two top Indian women lifters, Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu, were caught in Athens despite being cleared by the SAI lab in Delhi.

DNA spoke to Pratima’s teammate in 2004 and Olympic bronze medalist Karnam Malleswari who said she was still baffled at how Pratima was caught in Athens when SAI’s test in Delhi had cleared her prior to departure. Malleswari, speaking from Andhra Pradesh, said: “Both of us were tested together in Athens but she was caught. However, prior to departure for Athens, she had been cleared in the test in India. I guess only the Anti-Dope lab (of the Sports Authority of India) which tested her in New Delhi can say how it happened despite that.”

The samples are collected by SAI’s field officials but at times people are also contracted for the purpose and thereafter the samples are taken without proper freezing facility for testing to Delhi which is almost 200-250km away. The result of the test is disclosed to only one official in SAI, its executive director MP Ganesh.

Ganesh told DNA that he does not suspect any foul play in the testing. “The report comes straight to me and nobody else is allowed to see the report.” But when he was informed about the sample tampering by DNA, he said: “We will have to look into it.”

The inquiry committee appointed to look into the CWG scandal has already taken notice of the manipulation in sample collection. The head of the inquiry committee and former president of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation AK Mattoo said: “If that is the case then it is useless to talk about the lab being accredited. This is about a systematic network of people who are tampering with samples.”

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