Barely two weeks to go before the Commonwealth Games start and the Athletics Federation of India is still clueless about the whereabouts of discus thrower Seema Punia. The federation has also revealed that they hadn’t given the three-time CWG medalist permission to train on her own.
With India gearing up for the CWG Gold Coast that is scheduled to start from April 12, 24 athletes have already left for Australia last week. However, though discus thrower Navjit Kaur Dhillon was seen training in Gold Coast, her compatriot was nowhere to be found with AFI admitting that they don’t have the slightest of ideas either.
“I have no idea where Seema is. She hasn’t gone to Australia and isn’t training in Patiala,” said chief coach Bahadur Singh, as reported by Hindustan Times.
The chief coach also revealed that since finishing sixth with a throw of 54.11 at last year’s Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, the Sonipat-born athlete was keeping a low profile.
“Seema kept a low profile and didn’t attend the national camp. She surprised everyone with her gold medal-winning throw of 61.05m, which was better than the CWG qualifying mark of 59m, on the opening day of the Federation Cup in March,” added Singh.
However, given her past doping records, she wasn’t tested following this success as the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) officials were absent. Punia had bagged gold in the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago but had failed the dope test for a stimulant, which forced her to return the medal. She had also allegedly failed the dope test ahead of the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
Punia had skipped the national camp ahead of the Rio Olympics as she preferred to train in Russia’s Maykop, in the Caucasus region. That didn’t help her though as the 2014 Asian Games gold medallist finished 20th in the quadrennial event with a throw of 57.58m, which was way below her season’s best of 62.62.
CK Valson, the secretary-general of AFI, has denied claims that the federation had given Punia permission to train on her own.
“We have only given (her) a letter so that she can take leave from her department for the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
An AFI-associated official also revealed that Punia missed the national camp and had gone to Russia, a country banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for running a state-sponsored doping programme. The official also added that with no concrete policy to punish athletes for skipping the national camps ahead of any major international meet, Punia might get away with a mild warning.