Top 10 scandals in Indian sports
8. The Santhi Soundarajan gender controversy
The issue of transgender athletes and their participation in sports has been a bone of contention for a very long time now. One such case was that of Santhi Soundarajan, an Indian athlete who won the silver medal in the women’s 800 metres at the Asian Games held in Doha, Qatar in 2006. Santhi, aged 25 then, took the gender test at Doha. The test was administered by a medical commission set up by the games’ organizers. The test reports sent to the Indian Olympic Association on Sunday said Soundarajan “does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman.” Following this report, she was stripped of her medal, which came as a shock to the entire country.
While such sex tests are not compulsory for competitors, the International Association of Athletics Federations can request that contenders take one at any time, and include intensive evaluation by a gynaecologist, a geneticist, an endocrinologist, a psychologist, and an internal medicine specialist. According to her coach P. Nagarajan, her upbringing in impoverished rural India, where she reportedly only started eating proper meals in 2004, could be a reason behind the test result.
In January 2007, The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi awarded Santhi a television set and a cash prize of Rs. 15 lakhs for her Doha Games effort, despite the news of Santhi failing the gender test. In September 2007, Soundarajan was reported to have attempted suicide, reportedly by consuming a veterinary drug at her residence. The attempt was blamed on gender, economic, and sports pressure in India.
Two months later, Soundarajan took up coaching, starting a training academy at her home district of Pudukkottai, and became an athletics coach with the regional government. By 2009, her academy had 68 students and her students had won the first and third positions in the Chennai marathon. As per reports, Santhi Soundarajan was so impoverished after her ordeal that she had to work as a daily-wager in a brick kiln, earning Rs. 200 per day. Things have improved now, however; she is currently undergoing a diploma course in athletics from the National Institute of Sports (NIS).
7. The Vijender Singh heroin scandal
The star Indian boxer and Olympic medallist Vijender Singh became an overnight media sensation for all the wrong reasons after his alleged involvement with a drug dealer, Anup Singh Kahlon, whose phone records proved Vijendra’s links with the peddler. The drug racket came to light after police arrested Kahlon and Kulwinder Singh for possession of 540 grams of heroin on 3 March 2013. Vijender, who is also a DSP with Harayan Police, refused to give blood and hair samples for further investigations. But the Haryana police claims that he used drugs 12 times between December 2012 and Februray 2013.
In May 2013, Vijender Singh received a little breathing room when the judge of the special court in Fatehgarh Sahib district of Punjab rejected the petition by the State police seeking directions to procure his hair, fingernails and blood samples to confirm his heroin consumption. Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports later cleared his name from the drug haul case.
“Vijender Singh, boxer, along with four others, was subjected to an out of competition test for banned substances. A full menu test was conducted which included testing for psychotropic substances. Tests were only carried out on blood and urine samples,” said the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in a statement.
Vijender later agreed to cooperate with the investigations and when the reports came out, he was a relieved man. The report stated, “The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports is glad to announce that on the basis of these tests none of the boxers were found to have used any banned substances in the recent past.”