SAI clears men's team for Asian meet

SAI clears men's team for Asian meet

In a shocking turn of events, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Friday cleared the men’s 4x100M relay team for the Wuhan Asian Athletics Championships, including Manikanda Arumugam, who was caught sprinting the anchor leg as a proxy runner during the trials in Bengaluru.

Arumugam’s name was not even in the entries sent by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to the Wuhan organisers. The coaches had tried to pass him off as Praveen Muthukumar in a bizarre incident on Wednesday at Sree Kanteerava stadium. The team had even made the qualifying mark, before the subterfuge was exposed by an alert media.

Interestingly, when the time came for clearance from the SAI, the AFI opted to drop Muthukumar to accommodate Arumugam. Muthukumar had finished fourth in the 100M in the Federation Cup at Mangaluru earlier this month while Arumugam had failed to make the final there.

The top six runners in the Fed Cup were included in the relay teams and their entries submitted to the Chinese organisers in time to beat the deadline of May 15.

It is expected that Arumugam would either be tried as the seventh runner in the 4x100 team or else as a second entry in the 200M. However, whether such manipulations of entries would be possible is uncertain at the moment but given the track record of AFI at such meets, it is presumed things would be sorted out in time.

The SAI, which was asked to look into the matter by the Sports Ministry, is expected to submit a report to the Ministry in due course. Apparently, SAI did not want to delay the clearance of a team leaving on Sunday and it did not go too much into the manner in which Arumugam was inducted into the team at the eleventh hour.

On a different front, some of the members of the team, it was learnt, were yet to be dope tested. They would go through the process possibly at the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) offices on Saturday, just hours before leaving for the airport.

This is not the first time that athletics trials in the country had turned out to be farcical and controversial. In 2000, prior to Sydney Olympics, in the men's 4x100 relay trials at Nehru Stadium here, a similar fraud was caught when the runners cut lanes and ran.

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