AAA thwarts AFI's attempts

Technical Delegates reject federation's plans to field Ashwini, Priyanka

Drama and controversy are never far from the Athletics Federation of India. Even where no issues exist, the federation manages to stir up a problem or two, keeping everyone on tenterhooks.

In a classic case, the AFI attempted to gain a backdoor entry for Ashwini Akkunji and Priyanka Panwar -- just back after a doping ban -- in the 4x400M relay team at the Asian Athletic Championships. But their efforts went up in smoke with the Technical Delegates rejecting their request on Friday.

Ashwini and Priyanka, who were among the six athletes banned for two years, haven’t competed in even a single race after their ban ended. They were not part of the team here but landed in Pune to run trials for inclusion the relay squad.

The AFI had written to the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) Technical Delegates on Friday requesting two names be included in the team. But after a meeting, the TDs, Yukio Seki of Japan and Wong Tien Choy of Singapore, replied saying that it won’t be possible to entertain such a request as per the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the AAA.

Entries for the championships closed on July 20 and their confirmation was made on July 2, a day prior to the start of the championships. “The entry list is frozen since July 2 and what we do on a daily basis is to reconfirm them prior to the start of each day’s proceedings,” said Wong. “Once the technical meeting is over, the rules do not allow inclusion of any fresh entries. If a country wants to field to replace an athlete in a relay team with another already in the team on compassionate grounds, we can consider it on rarest of rare occasions.”

“So taking IAAF rules into consideration, we have replied to the AFI rejecting its application,” he added.

Seki said the TDs had received more than ten requests for changes in the entries. “We have not entertained any of the requests. So it won’t be right on our part to take a different stance in this case,” he said. “It would be totally unethical.”

The TDs decision was backed by AAA Secretary Maurice Nicholas. “Their decision is final in such matters,” said the Singaporean.

The Indian team originally entered for the relay included M R Poovamma, Nirmala, Anu Mariam Jose, Anilda Thomas, Sarita and Priyanka Mondal.

AFI later conveniently blamed the media for the entire episode. AFI president Adille Sumariwala said the athletes had approached them asking whether they could compete and they had in-turn requested the TDs for clearance. “I believe we have done nothing wrong and I am sorry to state that the media, over-reacting without cross-checking, is to be blamed for the unnecessary controversy,” he said.

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