Days ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK, another member of India’s 4x100m women’s relay squad has tested positive for banned substances in tests conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
Less than a week ago, sprinter Dhanalaksmi, who was also part of the 4x100m relay team, and triple-jump national record holder Aishwarya Babu had failed their drug tests.
Confirming the latest development, a top official of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Yes, the athlete has tested positive and we will follow the procedure.”
The sprinter, who was a national camper two years ago, was a late inclusion in the squad for the July 28 to August 8 event. With her failing the drug test, the Indian women’s 4x100m relay squad has been left high and dry just four days ahead of the competition.
Since two out of the six members of the relay squad have now failed the tests, the Indian team will have no injury cover. There is a possibility that 100m hurdler Jyothi Yarraji and long jumper Ancy Sojan, who are part of the CWG squad, will be roped in as backup runners.
This has been the worst year for Indian athletics since the 2011 doping scandal when six quarter-milers, including members of the 2010 CWG and Asian gold-winning women’s team, failed tests. The then 400m national coach Yuri Ogordnik was sacked and top athletes were banned.
Since the Tokyo Olympics last year, at least nine athletes have tested positive for banned substances, including two who represented India in Japan. The list of dope offenders this season, apart from this week’s names, include discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur (6th at Tokyo), Shivpal Singh (India’s second-best javelin thrower after Neeraj Chopra), M R Poovamma (three-time Asian Games 4x400m relay champion), javelin thrower Rajender Singh, and young Taranjeet Kaur, who won the 100m and 200m U-23 national titles.
India has the third highest number of doping cases, according to the latest World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report released in 2021. With 152 cases across sporting disciplines, the country is only below leaders Russia (167) and Italy (157).
The Indian Express had on May 10 reported how one of the country’s top 400m women runners evaded dope testers, including those from the Athletics Integrity Unit, for over a month.