Asian Athletics Championships gold medallist PU Chitra’s long-time coach NS Sijin, on Wednesday, lashed out the the Athletics Federation of India, and alleged a conspiracy behind the former’s name being omitted from the Indian squad for the World Championships in London next month.
“This [Chitra’s omission] is a case of clear conspiracy [from the federation] and has been orchestrated with a clear plan,” Sijin told The Field. Chitra being left out of the squad caused an outrage of sorts with even the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan slamming the athletics body. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old runner moved court after being left out of the squad despite clinching automatic selection for the London event.
AFI secretary, CK Valson, explaining Chitra’s omission, explained that a win in an “area meet” or even the Asian Championships doesn’t hand a free entry for the athlete into the final tournament: “We must keep in mind this is the World Championships and the IAAF takes the final call on an entry of an athlete who has won an area meet based on where he or she stands in terms of performance. There is no guarantee that an athlete who has won gold at the Asian Championships will get entry,” Valson was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
Chitra’s illness and the Guntur episode
After winning gold in the 1,500-metre event with a personal best of 4:17:92 at Bhubaneshwar, but barely a week later, the Mundur-based Chitra could only manage a second-placed finish barely a week later at national inter-state meet at Guntur with a time of 4:28:87 seconds.
Chitra fell ill on the eve of the meet but participated on Sijin’s behest as the latter feared a backlash from the federation against his protege pulling out at the eleventh hour, “That [The Guntur meet] was for people who did not qualify for the meet. Chitra had told me that she would not participate in the event as she was affected with a bout of dysentery two days before the event,” Sijin said.
“I told her that they would come up with excuses [to exclude Chitra] and persuaded her to participate. Now, they are saying that the performance in the camp was not good enough. How much will a kid affected with dysentery run?,” he added.
GS Randhawa, the AFI’s chairman of selectors, said India’s squad had to go through some changes, with form and consistency taking precedence over the medal winners from the Asian Championships, “We decided to only select those athletes who had achieved performances close to IAAF’s qualifying marks and not everyone who had won gold at the Asian Championships,” Randhawa said.
Sijin hit back: “They say that Chitra doesn’t have consistency. I want to ask them how many people have achieved that? Just a few days after the Asian Athletics meet, she was asked to participate in the event and the body needs time to recover. If we all have to attain the same level of consistency then there are other means such as using stimulants. We want to steer clear of that.”
Javelin thrower Davinder Singh Kang was named as a part of the 24-member squad despite his urine sample ‘A’ testing positive for marijuana.
Sijin lambasted at some of the alleged delaying tactics carried out during selection. The physical education teacher turned coach views a murky pattern behind the federation picking the squad less that 12 hours before the cut-off date, “The selection committee meet was on July 20th and had decided the team and the announcement should have been made on that very day. They did it on 23rd evening. The last date of entry was 24th. So, clearly this was a calculated move to ensure that there wouldn’t be any time [for us] to outrage over the matter,” he said.
Sijin, though, saw light at the end of the tunnel with Kerala Chief Minister’s rallying cry on Facebook for justice to served to Chitra, “If that happens, it would mean the federation would be admitting to their mistakes. The reason [The Guntur meet] given is ridiculous. The Kerala High Court is scheduled to take up the matter early on Thursday. Chitra told The Field that the AFI had not contacted her and hoped that “nobody” faced her ordeal.