When S. Dhanalakshmi clocked a very impressive 11.26s (joint second in India’s all-time list) for the 100m recently in Turkey and then followed it up with a sterling 22.89s 200m in Kazakhstan, many were stunned.
Equally stunning were B. Aishwarya’s 14.14m triple jump, which broke Mayookha Johny’s 11-year-old National record and made her this year’s Asian No. 1, and the 6.73m long jump at last month’s Inter-State Nationals in Chennai.
But now, the two stars have failed dope tests and their departure to next week’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham now looks very doubtful.
The Athletics Integrity Unit, formed by World Athletics a few years ago to fight doping in the sport, had tested Tamil Nadu’s Dhanalakshmi at Almaty (Kazakhstan) recently, and according to sources, in an out-of-competition test, while Karnataka’s Aishwarya failed an in-competition test conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) at the Chennai Nationals.
“I just heard the news and (was) shocked,” B.P. Aiyappa, Aishwarya’s coach, told The Hindu on Wednesday.
Meanwhile sources in the Thiruvananthapuram SAI-LNCPE centre, the national camp venue for sprinters, quartermilers and relays, confirmed that Dhanalakshmi had packed her bags and left the place a few days ago.
Dhanalaskhmi, who upset top names like Dutee Chand and Hima Das in recent meets and emerged as the country’s fastest 100 and 200m runner this year, came to the spotlight when she finished third in her first-ever quartermile at last year’s 4x400m mixed relay trials and went to the Tokyo Olympics.
All her personal bests, in the 100, 200 and 400m came last month. Dhanalakshmi had also qualified for the ongoing World Championships in the USA, through the World rankings route, but said that she could not go to Oregon because of visa issues. Strangely, though her name appeared in Road to Oregon chart, her name did not figure in the Worlds’ 200m entry list.
Aishwarya’s progress in the last couple of years have raised eyebrows. From a 6.25m long jumper and 13.29m triple jumper two years ago, she made big long jumps moving to 6.52 (2021) and 6.73 this year (triple jump: 13.55 & 14.14).
With many big names, like discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur (sixth, Tokyo Olympics), Asian silver medallist javelin thrower Shivpal Singh, quartermiler M.R. Poovamma (Asian Games 4x400m relay gold medallist), former National javelin record holder Rajender Singh and some new National gold medallists like Taranjeet Kaur and K. Naresh Kumar — 2021 Warangal National Open 100m champions — failing dope tests in the last 12 months, and now with Dhanalakshmi and Aishwarya joining the list, this is perhaps the worst year for Indian athletics after the 2011 scandal when six women quartermilers were caught in the doping net.