No Arjuna Award for Renjith Maheshwary, says ministry

New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) India's triple jumper Renjith Maheshwary suffered a massive set-back Thursday as the sports ministry decided not to give him the Arjuna Award after detailed investigations revealed that the athlete had indeed failed a dope test during the national championships in 2008.

"The ministry with considerable regret announces that the Arjuna Award for 2013 will not be conferred on Shri Renjith Maheshwary," the ministry said in a statement.

Maheshwary was earlier selected by the ministry for the Arjuna Award but was later put on standby after media reports claimed that he had failed a dope test in 2008.

On detailed investigations, the ministry found Maheshwary was detected to have used banned substance ephedrine during the 46th National Athletic Championships at Kochi in 2008.

The sample was collected Sep 8, 2008, and given to the National Dope Testing Laboratory Sep 15, 2008.

NDTL in its report Oct 3 found that the A-sample of Maheshwary contained ephedrine in levels far above even among those to whom it is administered for therapeutic purposes.

Maheshwary had not reported using ephedrine for medicinal purposes during the collection of the sample.

He was immediately suspended by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) pending inquiry.

"On Jan 10, 2009, Maheshwary was awarded a punishment of a ban for three months starting from Oct 13, 2008. Maheshwary was also disqualified from the said championships. This was communicated to him by the Director of the Athletic Federation of India vide his letter No. F.7-4/AFI/MC/2009 dated January 10. A copy of the said letter is available with the ministry," the release said.

The ministry, however, has doubts regarding the acceptability of the sample from Maheshwary.

"It is possible that the report of the National Dope Testing Laboratory may not be an acceptable 'Adverse Analytical Finding' and that the chain of custody of the sample may not have been sufficiently foolproof."

"However, the ministry has noted that Maheshwary has never protested against the findings of the inquiry committee or the punishment awarded by the competent authority. His acceptance of the punishment, despite the flaws in collection and analysis of the sample, has made the punishment final," the statement added.

The ministry also maintained that Maheshwary has never been found guilty of using a performance enhancing substance since 2008 but since the rules for the Arjuna Awards are explicit, the honour cannot be conferred on Maheshwary.

"Since such individuals cannot be granted the Arjuna Award, the ministry decided to keep the award to Maheshwary in abeyance, pending an inquiry into the allegations," the release said.

The ministry also blasted the AFI for its failure to provide full details of the case and show caused it for referring the athlete for the award.

"In the absence of records from the AFI, the details of the event had to be reconstructed from other sources. The AFI has been asked to explain this inability to provide critical information. They have also been asked to explain how they nominated Maheshwary for the Arjuna Award in the first place," the statement added.

In order to avoid such situations in future, the ministry has decided to create a new set of standard operating practices.

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