The Indian contingent at the Commonwealth Games was today left thoroughly embarrassed after race walker K T Irfan and triple jumper V Rakesh babu were ordered to head back home for violating the event’s ‘no needle policy’, a decision which the national olympic body vowed to challenge even as the athletics federation set up a probe panel. “Rakesh Babu and Irfan Kolothum Thodi are, with immediate effect, not permitted to participate in the Games. The accreditation of Rakesh Babu and Irfan Kolothum Thodi was suspended with effect from 09:00 hours on April 13, 2018. Both athletes were removed from the Games Village,” the Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin said in a strongly-worded statement. “We have asked the Commonwealth Games Association of India to ensure both athletes depart Australia on the first flight available,” it added.
India spoke in different voices on the matter. While the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) promised to punish after an inquiry following the Games, the Indian Olympic Association said it would appeal against the decision taken by the Commonwealth Games Federation’s court. While Irfan is already through with his 20km race walk event, finishing 13th, the 28-year-old Rakesh Babu was to participate in today’s triple jump final after qualifying 12th for the competition but was ruled out last night owing to a knee injury. In a hurriedly-convened press conference after the embarrassment, the Indian contingent officials said they would appeal the judgement. “We don’t agree with some decisions and we will discuss with our higher authorities. We will appeal against these decisions,” General Team Manager, Namdev Shirgaonker said at the press conference, attended by the Indian chef-de-mission Vikram Sisodia here.
This was the second needle controversy in which India got itself tangled in after the matter involving an unidentified boxer on the eve of the Games ended with reprimand for not following due procedure in disposing of a used syringe. The CGF had cleared India of any declaration violation at that time. The Commonwealth Games Federation Federation Court heard the latest complaint yesterday after it was brought to its notice by the CGF Medical Commission. The CGF court issued a strong warning to Sisodia, Shirgaonker and Athletics Team Manager, Ravinder Chaudhry for not ensuring compliance with the no needle policy of the CGF.
Athletes are barred from using syringes unless there is prior declaration made to the medical commission or a declaration is made within 24 hours of usage. “…persons acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Games Association of India (“CGA India”) are in breach of the CGF No Needle Policy for the Games (the “No Needle Policy”) in that they failed to ensure compliance with the No Needle Policy,” the CGF said. The CGF court found that the testimonies given by a cleaner manager at the Games and Australia Anti-Doping Authority Principal Investigator were credible. “The testimony of athletes Rakesh Babu and Irfan Kolothum Thodi who denied all knowledge of the needle in the cup in Bedroom 2 and the further testimony of Rakesh Babu that he had no knowledge of the syringe found in his bag in Bedroom 2 are both unreliable and evasive,” the CGF said.
“The CGF shall advise Vikram Singh Sisodia, Namdev Shirgaonker and Ravinder Chaudhry that any further infractions by any member of the Indian Team of the No Needle Policy could result in the withdrawal of accreditation of the offending person.” The Athletics Federation of India promised an inquiry and more punishment for the duo. “They will definitely be punished by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) as well. It is an embarrassment for us. There will be an inquiry after the Games is over and it will be time-bound. The panel will be appointed after the Games,” AFI Secretary C K Valson said after the CGF court stripped them of their accreditation and asked them to leave for India.
The AFI has already constituted a panel for it but the damage to the country’s reputation seems done. “When the Commonwealth Games Federation says no tolerance, the Commonwealth Games Federation means no tolerance,” the CGF stated. Clean Sports India convenor BVP Rao said he felt embarrassed by the incident and demanded a through probe into the issue. “As an Indian watching the games, I feel ashamed. The higher authorities must be it sports ministry or PMO must take a serious view and people at fault should be punished. Each time we let them go. It must not happen again,” said Rao.