Indian weightlifter out of Olympics team protests innocence

August 6th, 2008 - 3:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) India’s Olympic campaign was rocked by a doping controversy two days before the Games could begin as weightlifter Monica Devi was pulled out of the Games competition for allegedly testing positive, but she denied any wrongdoing and here federation stood by her. The weightlifter from Manipur reportedly tested positive for an anabolic steroid and she did not take the flight along with other members of the Indian contingent who left for Beijing late Tuesday night.

A tearful Monica told reporters Wednesday that she had never tested positive before and pleaded with the Indian Olympic Association to allow her to go to Beijing.

“I am innocent. I was never tested at any international competition. Let me go to Beijing and if I test positive there, why ban, you can even take my life,” she said sobbing.

Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) secretary B.R. Gulati stood by Monica, saying the tests have no validity because the Indian lab is not an accredited one.

“The test conducted is irregular. The Indian lab is not accredited by World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and it does not follow procedures. The report was released internally and we have not been given any copy of the report. I suspect some malafide intentions behind the whole controversy,” Gulati said.

Monika, who was selected to compete in the 69 kg class, tested positive in an out-of-competition test conducted by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

“We have learnt she is not participating after failing a dope test,” India’s deputy Chef de Mission Baljeet Singh Sethi was quoted as saying by an international agency.

Monica was the only Indian female weightlifter to be participating in the Olympics. Her selection had also been marred by controversy. She was selected after two trials in Pune and Bangalore.

The IWF conducted a pre-Olympic trial in July where Shailaja Pujari of Andhra Pradesh had performed better than Monica and got the nod for the Olympics. Shailaja was, however, accused of bribing her way into the team.

Shailaja, who had also served a two-year ban for a doping offence, was later dropped from the team after the sports ministry took up the case following the bribery scandal and Monica was selected in her place.

Indian weightlifters have been in the thick of doping cases for a long time. They had often tested positive in international competitions and were twice slapped with bans from international competitions since the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Monica’s failure to pass a doping test is the fourth by an Indian weightlifter since May.

Junior weightlifter Harpreet Singh tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone this June. Kavita Devi failed a dope test in an out-of-competition test conducted by WADA in May and was sent back from the Asian women’s championship in Japan. She was banned for two years by the federation.

Paritosh Upadhyay also tested positive in an out-of-competition test conducted by the SAI in June while in a training programme.

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