Asian Championships winner Gomathi Marimuthu in dope net

Indian athletics, which is already under international doping glare with the world body placing it in the second rung for violations, faces fresh embarrassment with Gomathi Marimuthu, who last month won the women’s 800m at the Doha Asian championships after a heroic finish, testing positive for norandrosterone, an anabolic steroid.

Following her positive test, the runner from Tamil Nadu has been provisionally suspended. If proved guilty, she will be stripped of her Doha gold and could face a four-year ban for a first steroid offence.

The Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) plan to draft her into the 4x400m relay squad that is building up for the September world championships in Doha has also been dashed.

Marimuthu’s rise to prominence from a humble background through sheer perseverance, despite personal tragedy and a spate of injuries, had made headlines after her come-from-behind win in Doha.

Her urine sample was collected by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) during the Federation Cup meet in Patiala, from March 13-15. The sample was tested at the National Dope Testing Laboratory here and came out recently, after her Doha victory.

NADA had collected over 100 samples, including blood samples, at the Federation Cup, which was a qualifying event for Doha. “Marimathu is the first positive test,” an Athletics Federation of India (AFI) official said.

She was due to join the relay camp currently on in the Polish city of Spala under chief coach Galina Bukharina. Her flight ticket has been cancelled and she has been asked to leave the national camp in Bengaluru. “Due to her fast finish, the national coach had wanted to test her for the 400m relay,” the AFI official said.

Marimuthu was hailed for her Doha victory, after a heroic late kick allowed her to win gold at a personal best of 2:02.70 secs. In March, she won a surprise victory at the Federation Cup, clocking 2:02.21 secs.

She had been on and off the national camp before Doha. The death of her father, and her long time coach Ramakrishnan Gandhi in November 2016, had left her devastated. The 30-year had also struggled with injuries for two years before her comeback in Patiala. She was seventh in the 2013 Asian meet at Pune and fourth at Wuhan, China in 2015.

National middle and long distance coach Jaswinder Singh Bhatia, under whom she was training in Bengaluru, distanced himself from the doping controversy saying he had trained her only for a week. “After the Federation Cup, she was selected for the camp. She was with me for a short duration as she had to participate in confirmatory trials at Patiala on April 13. From there, she went to Doha,” he said.

Indian athletics has had a poor doping record. At least seven top names, including woman 400m runner, Nirmala Sheoran, were caught for doping in 2018. The International Association for Athletics Federations last November classified India in the second rung for flouting anti-doping rules. India was placed in group B, for nations with high doping risk and low success at international level.

Since 2012, more than 100 Indian athletes, including some high profile names, have flunked dope tests. If three or more athletes fail tests in the span of 12 months in international meets, AFI is at risk of facing sanctions.

First Published:
May 21, 2019 18:21 IST

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