Hong Kong: India's weightlifters will be looking to build on their new-found clean status at the Asian Games in Incheon after bagging 12 medals at this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Indian weightlifting, dogged by rampant doping scandals in the past, appeared to turn a new leaf at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when no positive tests were reported and they emerged as the top nation in the event.
If it was an improvement on four years earlier at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, where the tally was eight medals with two golds, it was light years ahead of where they were in 2006. Back then Indian lifting hit a nadir when a 12-month ban was imposed on the national federation after four athletes tested positive within a year, forcing them to miss the Doha Asiad completely.
India's Sanjita Khumukcham completes a lift during the 48-kg women's weightlifting event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, in July 2014.
The haul in Glasgow was a reward for the years of effort spent cleaning up the sport in conjunction with the National Anti-Doping Agency, according to India's weightlifting chief. "I am not surprised at all, we have worked very hard to remove doping from our sport," Weightlifting Federation of India president Biren Baisya told AFP. He added that every athlete was now monitored regularly and there was an education programme to steer lifters away from the temptation of doping.
"There is a strict process in place to monitor each lifter and the quality of their training and diet. "They are taught which food supplements to take and which ones to avoid," he said. Baisya conceded that although India's dark days were now behind them, it was important to remain vigilant when it came to performance-enhancing drugs. "Its not easy to keep weightlifting dope free.
That is the nature of our sport," he said. "So there is no question of taking it easy. The lifters will continue to be educated on the menace and the harm it does. Hopefully the worst is over." The 10-strong team of five men and five women heading for Incheon, where competition begins on September 20, includes nine who competed in Glasgow and all three gold medallists: Sathish Sivalingam (men's 77kg), Sukhen Dey (men's 56kg) and Sanjita Khumukchan (women's 48kg).
India have never won gold at the Asian Games and will face tough competition in South Korea against the weightlifting powerhouses of China, Iran, Kazakhstan as well as the host nation. But it is a challenge they can face with optimism after years of work to rid the sport of its doping reputation, a fact echoed by their leading medal hope Sivalingam, who set a Commonwealth Games record by lifting 149kg in the snatch in Glasgow.