A positive dope test in 2012 continues to haunt India’s Tokyo Paralympic Games medalist in the high jump, Sharad Kumar. The Paralympian is among 35 elite Indian athletes considered for this year's prestigious Arjuna Award. The awards are given to a sportsperson for outstanding performance at international level.
As per the sports ministry's guidelines, athletes failing a dope test are ineligible for the awards.
No doubt Sharad has excelled at the international level, including the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games. The 29-year old won bronze medal in men’s T42 high jump event at the rescheduled Tokyo Paralympic Games. However, in 2012 he failed a dope test and was suspended for two years.
As per guidelines of the National Sports Awards, athletes failing dope tests for performance enhancing drugs, banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), are ineligible for the awards.
“It is good thing that the sports ministry has recognized my performance and considered me good for the Arjuna Awards,” Sharad said. “But I have my fingers crossed whether I will receive the Arjuna Award because some people might protest as I had failed the dope test in 2012.”
The international para-athlete said in the past he didn’t apply for the National Sports Award because ministry’s guidelines restrict athletes having failed a dope test to apply for the awards.
This year, he said, the ministry relaxed the norms for awards.
“Even those who have had a failed dope test in the past can apply for the awards,” added Sharad.
Sports Ministry recently relaxed guidelines regarding national awards, giving a chance to athletes like Sharad Kumar
Earlier, in May ministry’s circular stated that those athletes who have failed dope tests in the past could apply for the National Sports Awards.
However, the ministry’s notification drew flak for diluting norms to allow dope cheats to apply for the awards. In August, the ministry again deleted the modification. Dope cheats weren't eligible to apply for the awards.
Tamil Nadu’s international triple jumper Renjith Maheshwary was denied the Arjuna Award in the past as he failed a dope test between 2008-2009.
The Asian and Commonwealth Games medalist in women’s discus throw Seema Punia (Antil), another elite athlete whose application for the National Sports Awards was rejected due to her doping past.
Amit Panghal, winner of a silver medal at the 2019 world boxing championships too, has been denied the National Sports Awards because of his doping issue in the past.
Sharad was reluctant to indulge in any further discussion on the 2012 doping episode, saying he had already suffered a lot. He subsequently missed the 2012 London Paralympic Games as he was suspended for two years for failing the dope test.
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“I don’t want to comment on the 2012 doping issue,” said the high jumper.