Weightlifting body chief’s action questioned

July 10th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
By Abhisek Roy
New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) president Harbhajan Singh has kicked off a storm by letting off dope-tainted weightlifter Satheesha Rai without any punishment as some of his senior colleagues questioned his powers to condone the Karnataka iron man. IWF vice-president G.R. Beig, who was also the chairman of the anti-doping committee that probed Rai’s second doping offence, said he was not aware of any powers vested in the president to condone an drug offender under the IWF constitution. He was also surprised at Rai being let off even before the inquiry committee could complete its work and submit its final report.

“How can the president let off Satheesha Rai? As far as I know there is nothing called condonation powers and that, too, when the inquiry was incomplete,” a furious Beig told IANS, Thursday.

“Three months back I had submitted an interim report to the president Harbhajan Singh saying that we need to question Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Dr. Ashok Ahuja, who was with Rai for a long time. How can the president let him off without taking the anti-doping committee and the executive committee into confidence,” he said.

Rai was tested positive for a steroid at the Guwahati National Games in February 2007 — his second dope offence since the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

According to anti-doping policy of the IWF, which is also a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Rai should have been handed nothing less than a life ban for his second offence. WADA clause 10.2 clearly states that a first doping offence attracts a fine of two years while a second offence a life ban. But it should also be noted that the WADA code came into existence in 2003 while Rai’s first doping offence was in 2002.

But IWF general secretary B.R. Gulati, who has also been accused of taking bribe to include another dope tainted weightlifter Shailaja Pujari for the Olympics, maintained that the president used his so-called condonation powers because Rai assured that he had already withdrawn from all form of competitive weightlifting and will also not participate in future.

“The president used his condonation powers because Rai promised not to puruse his career as a weightlifter. And if he goes back on his word, we will punish him. The president had act because the inquiry committee failed to come to any conclusion,” said Gulati.

The IWF chief said he took the decision because the anti-doping committee empowered him to do so. “I have taken the decision because the inquiry committee failed to come to a conclusion.”

Beig, however, rubbished Gulati and Singh’s claims saying that the committee had clearly stated in the interim report that it needed to meet some more people. Nowhere did the report say that the panel was unable to take come to a conclusion.

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