2 Indian athletes barred for breaching “no-needles” policy
GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Two Indian athletes were banned from the Commonwealth Games on Friday and ordered to leave Australia “on the first flight available” after needles were discovered in their room at the athletes village.
Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin said triple jumper Rakesh Babu and race walker Irfan Kolothum Thodi had been banned from the Games and ordered to return home immediately.
It’s the second time India has been investigated here for breaching the Commonwealth Games “no-needles’ policy after a doctor with the boxing team was reprimanded last week.
Indian team official Ravinder Chaudry held a news conference later Friday and said the delegation planned to appeal the ban on Thodi.
A statement said testimony from an Australia Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) investigator was “credible,” and cast doubt on comments from the two athletes.
“The testimony of athletes Rakesh Babu and Irfan Kolothum Thodi, who denied all knowledge ... are both unreliable and evasive,” the ASADA statement said. “Rakesh Babu and Irfan Kolothum Thodi are in breach of the No Needle Policy.”
Babu had qualified for the triple jump final and was due to compete on Saturday. Thodi finished 13th in the 20-kilometer race walk last Sunday.
Martin said cleaners had found a needle in a cup in the apartment assigned to Babu and Thodi on Thursday. ASADA investigators then searched the room and located another needle in a bag belonging to Babu.
As a result both had been removed from the athletes village and their accreditation was suspended.
“When the Commonwealth Games Federation says no tolerance, the Commonwealth Games Federation means no tolerance,” Martin said.
Under games rules only medical practitioners and athletes who give prior notice and with an approved medical condition requiring auto-injection such as diabetes can bring needles into the athletes’ village.
As well as the athletes’ suspensions, “strong reprimands” were issued to Indian officials including the team’s chef de mission with a warning that any further breaches could result in suspension of accreditation.
Team official Chaudry said the sanctions didn’t appear to be fair.
“The question is how they are confident that one syringe is being used by both athletes,” Chaudry said. “Why did they take action on both athletes? The apartment, they have six athletes in the apartment. So we are appealing on this ground.”