New Delhi: Triple jumper Renjith Maheswary, who has been stopped from receiving Arjuna Award under controversial circumstances on charges of dope violation last year, has again been recommended by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for the coveted honour this year.
A top AFI official told PTI that Maheswary's name has again been nominated for this year's Arjuna Award on the ground that the Sports Ministry's eligibility rule does not bar him from getting the coveted honour.
"Sports Ministry's eligibility clause says that any athlete who failed a dope test conducted by a WADA or IOC accredited laboratory will be barred from getting the award. But Maheswary's case relates to a test conducted in 2008 while the NDTL got WADA accreditation in 2009 only," the official said.
"So, we have recommended Maheswary's name again for this year's Arjuna Award. Let us see what the new government does this time," he said. Interestingly, this same eligibility rule (4.2) of the Sports Ministry for conferring Arjuna Awards was considered when the controversy over Maheswary being barred from receiving the coveted award cropped up in September last year.
The eligibility rule (4.2) for Arjuna Awards as amended on March 15, 2010 states that "sportspersons found positive for use of drugs banned by the International Olympic Committee in any laboratory accredited by the IOC will not be eligible for Arjuna Award".
Maheswary also has the performance to show as he won a silver in the Pune Asian Championships in July last, besides winning a silver and a bronze in the Asian Grand Prix last year. After a detailed investigation, the Ministry had come to a conclusion in September last that Maheswary was found to have used ephedrine during the 46th National Athletic Championships in Kochi in 2008 and hence he would not be conferred with the award.
The Ministry had said then that there was some doubt regarding the acceptability of the test sample from Maheswary. It had said that the report of National Dope Testing Laboratory might not have been an acceptable 'Adverse Analytical Finding', and that the chain of custody of the sample might not have been sufficiently foolproof.
However, the Ministry had noted that Maheswary had 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, had made the punishment final.
A Kottayam-based organisation, Navalokam Samskarika Kendram had filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the Maheswary case and Sports Ministry had given its response after being issued notice by the top court.
Maheswary, on his part, said that he wanted to silence his critics by his performance. "I am concentrating on my training at NIS, Patiala now. I want to answer my critics by doing well in the upcoming Commonwealth Games and Asian Games," he said.
"I have been told by my friends that Sports Ministry has admitted before the Supreme Court that the WADA had doubted the dope testing procedure on the ground that the chain of custody of my urine sample was not foolproof. I am told that the Ministry said that even the IAAF did not lend any credence to the findings of my dope results. "I am sad to hear all these, but I just want to move forward," he said.