Asian Games silver medallist Santhi slogs at brick kiln

Asian Games silver medallist Santhi slogs at brick kiln
Her fall was as meteoric as her rise and Santhi Soundararajan, the 2006 Doha Asian Games 800m silver medallist was stripped of her medal after failing a gender test, now slogs at a brick kiln for a living with a paltry wage.

The once feted athlete claimed that Athletics Federation of India had banned her from participating in any event after the test and that officials had just "abandoned her".

"I was frustrated but have got it over now. All my records have been erased. I now work hard in a brick kiln, earning Rs 200 a day instead of on a sports ground," she told PTI.

Santhi said she quit her job as state government coach as the salary was very low.

Besides she was appointed on contract basis and her services were not regularised, she said.

"I wanted to qualify to become a better coach, but do not have the means to go about it.

I am now trying for another government job," said.

She claimed that as coach, some of her wards won some national events. Showing her scarred hands filled with boils, Santhi said she now works at a kiln in Kathakuruchi in Pudukottai district with her parents. 

But senior state government officials denied Santhi's claims of having been 'abandoned' and said the government had been very sympathetic towards her after she failed the gender test.

G A Rajkumar, Additional Chief Secretary Sports, said he was offered a job as coach on in June 2008. The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu appointed her as coach.

"The government's benevolence did not stop there. She asked for a transfer to this town. Though there was no posting as athlete coach at the district level, such a post was created for her and she was transferred here," he said.
 
Unfortunately, she did not want to continue in government service and insisted that she be relieved, which was done on August 31, 2010.

"It was all her own making and government is not responsible. After this, she did not even inform us of her whereabouts," he said.

After her Doha feat, the Tamil Nadu government had awarded her Rs 15 lakh.

Sports officials at Pudukottai maintained that government had given her chances, which she did not utilise.

One of them said there could be no comparison to Castor Semenya of South Africa, who lost the gold she won in the Berlin World Championship in 2009 after failing a gender test, but is now her country's flag bearer for the London Olympics.

Both are poles apart in attitude. Even if Santhi is taken back it was not clear if she would commit herself to her job as coach, he said.

"We don't know what exactly were the problems relating to Santhi during the gender test ... what applied to Semenya may not apply to Santhi," an official said. 

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