The PU Chitra case heads for an acrimonious end as the Kerala athlete and her representatives have filed a contempt petition against the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).
The petition states that the Federation did not abide by the Kerala High Court’s order to ensure the 22-year old’s participation in the IAAF World Championships in London starting August 4.
Though it was the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) which rejected AFI’s last minute-request to add Chitra to the entry list, the petition contended that Sudha Singh’s name had been included in the Indian squad while the High Court’s directive to the AFI over Chitra’s inclusion had not been complied with.
So how did it come to this mess?
July 7: Earlier on July 6, PU Chitra had run in Heat 2 of the women’s 1500 metres at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar and had finished second, qualifying eighth overall with a time of 4:36.80.
In the final, Chitra clocked the personal best of her season, bringing the gold medal home with a time of 4:17.92, edging out Geng Min of China. By virtue of her gold medal winning performance, Chitra was eligible for a spot at the IAAF World Championships, an opportunity available to all gold medallists at the AAC.
Overall, India would win 12 medals at the AAC 2017, a record haul for the host nation at the biennial Championships.
July 18: Chitra ran in the 1500 metres at the 57th Inter-State Athletics Championships at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. She could only manage a 4:28.87, coming second to Lili Das of West Bengal. Her timing was almost 11 seconds below her AAC 2017 performance.
July 23: After a meeting of the Selection Committee in New Delhi, AFI announces 24-member team for the World Championships. Chitra, Ajoy Kumar Saroj and Sudha Singh are the three gold medal winners from Bhubaneshwar left out of the squad.
A total of 24 athletes are in the squad to be sent to London, along with a team of 13-member support staff comprising team officials, coaches, masseurs and team doctors. Along with the gold medallists from the AAC, 9 athletes who had made the qualification cut-off mark had also been included.
July 25: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan slammed the move to exclude Chitra from the squad for the World Championships. “Excluding Chitra, pride of not only of Kerala but also of the country, from the team for World Athletics Championship is condemnable,” Vijayan had said in a Facebook post. “Neglect shown to the athlete cannot be justified,” he had added.
The state government will take up the matter with the Centre, the chief minister said, adding they would extend full support to Chitra. The move to destroy the aspirations of Kerala’s sports personalities should be discouraged, he had said.
“We have not named some athletes who have won gold in Asian Championships because their performances were well below the IAAF World Championships qualifying standards,” AFI committee chairman GS Randhawa had said after being notified of Vijayan’s stance.
July 26: Chitra’s coach NS Sijin blasted the Selection Committee and the AFI, terming his trainee’s exclusion a case of “conspiracy”. “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.
A writ petition was also filed in the Kerala High Court against the AFI’s decision to exclude her from the team, two days before the squad was supposed to depart for London.
AFI President Adille Sumariwalla issued an open letter clarifying that the Selection Committee had not acted with any “bias” in the Chitra case. In his letter, Sumariwalla cited the athletes’ performance data that stated Chitra’s performance “dropped significantly” at the Interstate event and her timing was not close enough to meet the World Qualifying mark.
July 28: The Kerala High Court had ordered the central government to ensure the participation of Chitra PU in the World Athletics Championship. Justice PB Suresh Kumar had also observed that the selection process for the championship appeared to be not transparent and that qualified athletes were ignored.
The deadline for registering athletes for the World Championships had already passed, and the AFI had already responded via an open letter.
July 29: The Sports Ministry followed the Kerala HC’s directive and spoke to the AFI on the same. Sports Minister Vijay Goel spoke to AFI President Sumariwalla asking him to abide by the directive.
“Goel talked to AFI President Adille Sumariwalla on the issue and advised him not to contest the directive given by the Kerala High Court as PU Chitra is otherwise a wild card entry for the World Championship,” the sports ministry had said in a statement.
July 30: The IAAF rejected AFI’s request to consider Chitra’s name for the start list after the Indian athletics body had initially excluded her from the World Championships squad.
“We did what we could. We did what is within our powers. But the IAAF has rejected our request. We cannot do anything. That (rejection) was their discretion and they must have done it taking into account relevant rules,” an AFI official was quoted by PTI.
July 31: A contempt petition was filed in court by Chitra and her representatives against the AFI for not ensuring her participation at the Worlds. She sought action against AFI Secretary CK Valson, AFI Chairman GS Randhava and AFI President Adille Sumariwalla.
“There is no request by the respondents pointing out that the non-inclusion of the athlete was on account of a mistake committed by them, which has to be rectified,” Chitra said in her petition.
Just when it was thought that IAAF’s rejection had brought the Chitra saga to a close, it is set to continue with the AFI coming under the scanner.