Sanjita Chanu vows to fight back, questions drug testing agency for taking too long to publish test results

Sanjita Chanu is determined to clear her name from the recent doping scandal and urged the Indian Weightlifting Federation to support her. Speaking to Firstpost from Imphal in Manipur, the two-time gold medallist in the Commonwealth Games said, “I am innocent and have not taken any banned substance to enhance my performance. I am completely at loss why the testing agency took so long to publish the results. According to the details provided to me by the Indian Weightlifting Federation, my samples were collected in the USA during the World Championship which was held in November last year. Why did it take them over six months to complete the tests and come out with their report.’’

File image of Sanjita Chanu. Reuters

File image of Sanjita Chanu. Reuters

According to the statement from the International Weightlifting Federation released yesterday, a sample of Sanjita was found to contain the banned anabolic steroid testosterone. “I was told the International Federation mailed my reports earlier, few weeks before the Commonwealth Games but the e-mail could not reach me. If they were aware that I had tested positive earlier, why was I allowed to take part in the Commonwealth Games? Why didn’t the International Weightlifting Federation raise the matter when I won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games? The names of the winners of the Commonwealth Games have been published in their official website so they were aware that I had finished on top in my event,’’ queried Sanjita.

According to Sanjita, the tests were carried out in USA by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) who have shared their findings with the International Weightlifting Federation. Any appeal challenging the findings will have to be made in the USA.

“I have already asked for the testing of the B sample. I have also been assured by the Indian Weightlifting Federation that they will appoint lawyers to appeal against the findings if my B sample is also tested positive. I just wish the Indian Federation keeps me informed about the next course of action. At the moment, no one from the federation has directly got in touch with me to discuss the roadmap ahead. I think it is very important that I am allowed to speak to the lawyers who will take up my case so I can work with them closely,’’ asserted the 24-year-old.

If Sanjita’s sample B is tested positive, she is expected to face a four-year ban and she will miss out on the Asian Games. The Indian weightlifting team is currently undergoing a high altitude camp in Shilaroo in Himachal Pradesh. Sanjita was informed about the test results from the International Weightlifting Federation on the 15 May and was asked to discontinue her training with the national team.

“I am a fighter and will bounce back from the debacle. I have always given the best for the team. I did not flinch when I was asked to move up from my favourite weight category to ensure Mirabai stood a chance for a medal in the 48 kg category. I was down with a nagging back injury during the Commonwealth Games but I overcame the pain and won the gold medal.’’

Sanjita had bagged the gold medal in the 48 kg category in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with Mirabai Chanu finishing second. With Mirabai performing well in the 48kg, the Indian coach Vijay Sharma had asked Sanjita to compete in the 53 kg to bolster India’s medal prospects. Though not her favoured weight category, Sanjita took part in the higher weight category and won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games lifting a total of 192 kg, a 10 kg more than the silver medallist. “Even after winning the gold medal, I have undergone five tests and none of them have revealed the presence of any banned substances," she said.

Sanjita hailing from Kakching district in Manipur took to weightlifting inspired by the feats of Kunjarani Devi, the famous lifter from her state. The journey to the top was difficult with her poor family struggling to meet the dietary requirements of the budding weightlifter. But she did not give up and made it to the Indian team. She had a run-in with the authorities when she moved to the High Court last year as she felt she was repeatedly ignored for the Arjuna Award.

Indian lifters have come under increased scrutiny in recent times with high number of doping offenders. However, things started to look up with only a solitary lifter - Sushila Panwar failing the dope test in 2016. The upswing in the fortunes continued with the weightlifters holding the pride of place in this year’s Commonwealth Games claiming five gold medals. The world championship victory for Mirabai Chanu was also a big high and the ugly ghosts of dope-tainted performances were buried. But news of Sanjita’s failed dope test has opened new wounds which will take some time to heal

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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2018 23:07:01 IST

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