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Pardaphash special: Yogi government felicitates tainted weightlifter

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Lucknow: In an embarrassing situation, by considering a dope tainted weightlifter for the Rani Laxmi Bai award (given to outstanding female athlete), the Yogi Adityanath government has made a mockery of an award function held in Lucknow.

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It is worthwhile mentioning that on the occasion of National Sports Day, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath felicitated 14 outstanding sportspersons. The award also carried a cash prize of R 3,11,000. International weightlifter Sushila Panwar, who had failed a dope test conducted by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) in March, was one of them.

Sushila was attending the national preparatory camp in Patiala when she was provisionally suspended on April 28, pending a hearing. Sushila, winner of gold medal in the plus 75kg at the South Asian Games in 2016 at Guwahati, could face a four-year suspension if found guilty.

On an interesting note, a similar honour was refused to 400m runner Priyanka Panwar, who had won gold at the 2016 SAF Games, since she was also facing dope charges. According to the official sources, though the award committee recommended Priyanka’s name last week, it was dropped in the last minute.

“I was surprised by the omission of Priyanka’s name from the list as the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) too had cleared her name after the UP sports directorate authorities sought a clarification on the issue,” pointed out committee member Anandeshwar Pandey.

“It’s wrong that Priyanka is denied award and at the same time Sushila’s name is cleared,” said Pandey, who also happens to be the secretary general of the UP Olympic Association.

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According to the guidelines for the Arjuna Award or the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards, dope cheats can’t apply. India’s 2014 Asian Games women’s discus throw champion Seema Antil has not been considered either for Arjuna or Khel Ratna since she had failed a dope test in 2000 during the world junior championship.

RP Singh, director of sports in Lucknow said he wasn’t aware of Sushila’s positive test. He further went on to add she wouldn’t have been considered had he known. “The officials screening the applications should have apprised the department,” he said, adding that he will look into the issue.

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