It has been found out that Santhi Soundarajan, who won a silver medal in the 800m at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, is now working as a daily wager in a brick factory.
A Times of India report says that after failing her gender test and being stripped of her medal, Santhi is now engaging in menial labour for eight hours a day and is paid Rs 200 per day.
There have been athletes who have failed gender tests before— with the most high profile case being Caster Semenya of South Africa. But things were different with her. She was supported by her whole nation and has been named the flag bearer of the country at the London Games after the International Association of Athletics Federations revoked her ban.
Santhi has had no such luck. After being banned from participating at any level by the Athletics Federation of India, she just vanished.
It is hard to believe that the athlete is now toiling away at a brick kiln.
After the immediate erasing of her records, Santhi also attempted suicide. Considering that she had lost all hope and was humiliated in public, it was not a surprise.
What is even more surprising is that her parents are also working at the same place, which is run by her uncle. Their collective wages support a family of six.
Santhi made a pretty good coach before her current job. Athletes trained by her won medals at national meets and the Chennai marathon, but the Tamil Nadu government refused to confirm her employment— forcing Santhi to look for something else. This coach’s job paid her a monthly Rs 5000.
Without any records of being an athlete (everything was taken from her after she failed the gender test), she cannot apply for the NIS diploma course that would give her better job options. On top of that lies the constant fear of her having to declare her gender.
Santhi had also approached the district administration for a job. But this report quoted her as saying, “I met the district collector and told him that I was even ready to work as a peon. He wasn’t bothered. He said since I wasn’t registered with the employment bureau, I didn’t stand a chance. I told him about my feats as an athlete. I pleaded with him to consider my family’s plight and give me a job on compassionate grounds. My plea fell on deaf ears,” she said.
She was also denied permission to meet M Karunanidhi (then CM) and Jayalalitha (current CM). The prize money she received from Karunanidhi has already been used to faciliate her siblings’ education and marriages.
With the International Olympics Committee thinking about better methods of testing athletes if they come under the scanner for gender verification, Santhi could stand a chance of representing the country. But to survive till then, a job is absolutely necessary.
Read the full TOI report here.