With every new day bringing a fresh load of worrying news, Anju Bobby George feels World Athletics’ decision to freeze the Olympic Games qualification period for eight months, till November 30, is a wise move.
“They did this because there is a high chance of cheats taking illegal drugs during the Coronavirus period since dope-testers cannot travel to take out-of-competition tests owing to lockdown in many places,” said Anju, the country’s lone World Championship medallist with her long jump bronze in 2003 in Paris, in a chat with The Hindu from Bengaluru on Wednesday.
“Athletes can easily hide somewhere now, take drugs and qualify for the Olympics and can later come up with better performances.”
Anju, the chairperson of the Indian Olympic Association’s Athletes Commission, revealed that the dope issue was a big worry when the qualification period extension was discussed recently.
“We had a con-call between the athlete commissions of various countries by the end of March. All of us were worried that cheaters could benefit. That could be a reason why they reopened the Olympic qualification doors in December,” she said.
“We feel that proper testing will happen only from January next year. So, to some extent, that will dissuade the dope cheats everywhere… even in India.”
Anju feels that it will not be proper to conduct national competitions before the Olympic qualification doors open in December.
“If there is no qualification chance, I don’t think it will be wise to conduct national competitions. And look at the way Coronavirus is spreading in the country, I don’t think athletes can have enough time to train if they have competitions in September or October.
“Right now, we don’t know how many days this situation will extend and when they can travel freely from one place to another. Since athletes have to travel a lot for competitions, we have to be careful about all these things. Nothing can be more important than the safety and health of our athletes.”
Stars like long jumper M. Sreeshankar, javelin thrower Annu Rani and shot putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor will be among those who will be anxiously waiting for the qualification doors to open.
Worried about the pandemic
Anju said she was worried about the Coronavirus pandemic.
“When you see that the UK Prime Minister in in the ICU, you feel a certain helplessness about the whole thing. It just shows how small and insignificant you are in this world.”