Tearful Monica pleads innocence, says she has been framed (Lead)

August 6th, 2008 - 10:37 pm ICT by IANS  

V. Krishnaswamy and Avishek Roy
Beijing/New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) With her Olympics dream evaporating in a dope cloud, weightlifter Monica Devi Wednesday took on the might of Sports Authority of India (SAI) demanding the test report be either shown to her or she be allowed to go to Beijing. An emotionally-choked Monica told IANS she was ‘innocent’ and ‘framed’.

The weightlifter from Manipur reportedly tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was pulled out of the contingent that left for Beijing late Tuesday night.

Accompanied by Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Officials, Monica stormed into the SAI office and asked the Executive Director (Teams) R K Naidu that the report be shown to her.

“How can they just say that I have tested positive? Since last June I have taken part in so many international events but I never tested positive. I asked them to give the report but they said they could not do anything. They told me to go to Indian Olympic Association (IOA),” Monica told IANS.

“I am under a lot of tension. I am stressed. I have been framed,” she said.

The SAI director though refused to hand over the report to her. “It’s an official document. I cannot give it to the athlete,” he said.

Monica vented her anger at Naidu and accused SAI of being responsible for all the ills in Indian sport.

“It is because of people like him that Indian sport is suffering,” she said.

Monica, the only Indian weightlifter participating in the Olympics, had earlier courted controversy when she was selected ahead of Shailaja Pujari after trials in Pune and Bangalore last month. Shailja topped the trial but was accused of bribing her way into the team and Monica got into the team following the Sports Ministry’s intervention.

But now, with the Beijing Olympics only two days away, the Athens Olympics dope crisis - where two weightlifters Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu tested positive - came back to haunt India.

In Beijing, despite pressure from some quarters to bring in Shailaja as a replacement to make use of the sole quota place the country had in the discipline, the Indian contingent seemed to be in no mood to have a replacement for the withdrawn weightlifter Monica.

“There is no need to get another weightlifter. It is already embarrassing enough before the Games and since there is no chance of a medal, what is the point in raking up the issue again,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

The argument is that while the controversy will die a slow death over the next few days, the issue will crop up if Shailaja takes Monica’s place.

The deputy chef-de-mission of the Indian contingent, Baljeet Singh Sethi, however, said: “We are actually relieved it happened before she reached here because it would have shamed the country if she had failed a test at the Olympics.”

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.

Monica, who was selected to compete in the 69 kg class, tested positive in an out-of-competition test conducted by SAI.

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.

Monica is the latest addition to the long list of indian weightlifters who have been caught for drug abuse. In 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games Satisha Rai and K Madaswamy flunked the dope test. Four years later, Edwin Raju and Tejinder Singh found themselves in the hall of shame within 24 hours of reaching Melbourne after having tested negative at home ahead of the Games.

Two women weightlifters Shailaja and B Premavalli landed in trouble for the same reason before Melbourne.

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