NEW DELHI (Oct. 02) — A sudden exodus of sprinters marked the men’s 100-meter final at the Delhi state athletics meet, casting a shadow of doping suspicions over the event. All but one competitor, 20-year-old Lalit Kumar, withdrew from the race, fueling speculation that the athletes fled to avoid impending anti-doping tests.
Lalit Kumar, the lone runner in the Spotlight
Lalit Kumar was the solitary figure at the starting blocks at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. His seven opponents cited reasons ranging from cramps to muscle strains for their withdrawal.
However, the Delhi Athletics Association (DAA) believes the mass exit was triggered by the unannounced arrival of officials from India’s National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), according to a report by Reuters.
“An odd withdrawal is understandable, but when seven runners withdraw, you know something is fishy,” Sandeep Mehta, secretary of the DAA, told Reuters News last Wednesday.
“There are some throwers as well who disappeared before competition and all of them should be tested by NADA.”
Doping: India’s Persistent Issue
The incident comes against the backdrop of India’s ongoing struggle with doping in sports. According to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report published in May, India ranks second behind Russia in anti-doping rule violations.
Owen Lloyd at insidethegames.biz further elaborates on WADA’s concerns about doping issues in Indian athletics, emphasizing the urgency for stringent measures.
Athletes Forfeit Medals, Raise Further Suspicions
In a further twist, some athletes who had won in other categories failed to show up to collect their medals, adding another layer of suspicion to the event.
“We are sharing with them details of the athletes who fled, Mehta added. “If any of them return adverse results, we will ban them in Delhi and will recommend the Athletics Federation of India does the same.”
Lalit Kumar, who found himself in the unusual position of being the only competitor in a final, expressed his disappointment.
“I was really looking forward to running against the best athletes, but nobody turned up,” Kumar told the Indian Express. “Everyone was scared of getting tested. As an athlete, I feel very hurt and let down.”
Despite the unusual circumstances, the DAA decided to award Kumar a medal and certificate.
“He did compete with others in the heats, and it’s not his fault that opponents disappeared before the final,” Mehta concluded.
“We believe it would be wrong to deny him his medal and the certificate, and he will have them soon.”
The incident has ignited a debate on the integrity of Indian athletics, calling for more rigorous anti-doping measures to restore faith in the sport.