Indian athletics has been hit by five fresh cases of doping, prompting the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to launch an inquiry into the rising incidents, which touched seven Thursday.
With just over a year left for the 2012 London Olympics, the dope cases come as a serious setback for Indian athletics, specially the women's 4x400 metres relay team, which won the gold in last year's Commonwealth and Asian Games and was tipped to make the finals in London. Two runners, Sini Jose and Mandeep Kaur, of the women's relay team were among the dope offenders.
Mandeep and another quartermiler Juana Murmu were suspended by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) Wednesday for failing an out-of-competition test by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Mandeep tested positive for methandienone and stanozolol, while Juana consumed banned drug methandienone. Stanozolol is one of the oldest anabolic agents since American sprinter Ben Johnson took them in 1988.
The others who flunked Thursday in tests conducted by National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) are Murmu, a second-time offender, Jose, fellow runner Tiana Mary Thomas, shot-putter Sonia and men's long jumper Hari Krishnan Muralidharan.
IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra told IANS that the apex body has worked hard to clean India's image and it won't tolerate cheaters.
"This a very serious case. I have called for a meeting with Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and Sports Authority of India (SAI). We will have a thorough inquiry into the dope cases. Incidentally just before the Commonwealth Games a large number of athletes were caught. We also had to pay a huge fine to ensure the participation of weighltlifters, who had also flunked dope tests, in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games," he said.
Murmu, Jose, Sonia tested positive for methandienone while Tiana consumed anabolic steroid epimethandiol during the National Inter-State Athletics Meet held in Bangalore earlier this month. Muralidharan also returned positive for methandienone in an out-of-competition test
Malhotra was surprised how come a same banned substance was found in the samples of five of the six athletes who tested positive.
"I am surprised how all the athletes tested positive for the same substance. We have to look into it and we will ensure strict punishments for the offenders. We will also see the role of the coaches," he said.
NADA director Rahul Bhatnagar said there were serious charges.
"These are very serious cases as methandienone was found in samples of five athletes. We will take strict actions. Their B samples will be opened in seven days," Bhatnagar told IANS.
AFI director M.L. Dogra said the fresh cases are a serious set-back for Indian athletics.
"We have provisionally suspended all the five athletes. We have to find out how so many athletes have tested positive for the same anabolic steroids. We are disappointed at the turn of events," he said.