Thursday, January 21, 2010

Weight lifter Shailaja Pujari banned for life

Seeing her past history, it was a given that Shailaja Pujari would be handed a life-ban by the International Weightlifting Federation.

The repeat offender, who has competed over the years in the 75 kg category, was punished for failing the most recent out-of-competition dope tests carried out by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) and World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) in September last year.

At a time when the world body is waiting to announce the verdict on the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) as several others too tested positive around the same time, the news certainly does not augur well with the Commonwealth Games only nine months away.

Though federation officials are confident of evading a ban that can come with the string of cases, the fact that five other weightlifters were given four-year bans, is shameful and gives an idea of the rampant doping in the system that can prove to be an embarrassment again.

“Shailaja is the only one given a life ban. The five others have been handed four-year bans,” confirmed the IWF secretary-general Sahadev Yadav, who took over the important post only recently.

“But we are hoping to get away with a fine. I am quite sure this will not have a bearing on our chances in theCommonwealth Games,” he added.

Pujari, a 75kg gold medallist from the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, had first tested positive at the junior nationals in Chennai in 2003 and once again just before the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, following which she was dropped from the Indian squad.

Vicky Batta, a 56kg silver winner in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games who had previously failed a drug test during the 2007 National Games, was lucky not to get a harsher ban despite also being a repeat offender.

Batta and four others — Harbhajan Singh , Rajesh Singh, Sunita Rani and A Vijayadevi — were banned for four years and fined $ 5,000 each for failing the out-of-competition tests last year.

The IWF, which has been banned twice in the past (2004 and 2006), had earlier withdrawn its contingent from the World Championships in South Korea last year fearing a ban because of the repeat offences.

The whole set of office-bearers subsequently resigned from the IWF posts, and it further took some harsh words from the sports ministry to finally get rid of tainted officials Harbhajan Singh and Baldev Raj Gulati, who had made their way back in.

Harbhajan and Gulati, who were president and secretary, respectively during the forgettable phase for Indian weightlifting, returned as life president and vice-president after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) forced the en masse resignations. But the duo had to make way after the government’s tough stance.

The world body is expected to decide on the verdict against the IWF in the coming days.

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