Olympian Seema Punia draws flak for training in doping-tainted Russia

Olympian Seema Punia draws flak for training in doping-tainted Russia

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India's ace discus thrower Seema Punia has attracted the wrath of the Athletics Federation of India after she began her training for the Rio Olympics in Russia. Although Seema said she had informed the federation about her decision, officials pointed that she had not requested their permission.

The 2014 Asian games gold medallist said, "I have written to NADA, SAI, AFI and chief via e-mail and informed that we are going to train in Russia and we gave them the complete local address in Russia with house number. I will be in Russia till the first week of August and from there will go to Rio," reported PTI.

Meanwhile, top AFI officials have taken objection to her choice of training place, saying that just informing them is not sufficient enough and that she was not given the permission to train in Russia.

"She did write an e-mail to us that she is planning to train in Russia before the Olympics but we have not okayed it. Even before we could reply to that mail, she must be in Russia," a top AFI official said.

"Russia is a country at the centre of the worst doping scandal and how could she have gone to train there," he added.

Asked if she had taken the permission, Seema said, "I don't think it's necessary. The likes of Manpreet Kaur (shot putter), Vikas Gowda (discus thrower) and Inderjeet Singh (shot put) have been training on their own. They don't come to the national camp and they have their own programmes.

"The cost of this training trip in Russia is from my own pocket. The government gave money under TOP Scheme for the US training stint only and not for this. JSW gave up some help and the remaining is from my pocket," reported PTI.

The issue gained further attention after it was reported that she was training under Vitaliy Pishchalnikov, the father of athlete Darya Pishchalnikov, who was stripped of her London Olympics silver medal for doping. However, Punia denied the claims saying, "He (Vitaliy Pishchalnikov) is not my coach and I am not training under him. He is just helping us in getting the training facilities, my place of residence for a month here, etc. I have my husband (Ankush Punia) as my coach”.

The AFI's objections are not without basis as Seema has a murky past in doping. She had reportedly failed a dope test but was let go ahead of the 2006 Doha Asian Games. Even earlier in 2000, Seema had been handed a 'reprimand' after she failed a dope test for a stimulant at the World Junior Championships and was stripped of her gold medal.

Seema has faced allegations of trying to evade dope tests even this time, but the athlete denied the charges saying the mistake lay at the NADA's doorstep.

"There is nothing like I have not given whereabouts information sought by NADA. Please show me any proof of this. I have not got any notice from NADA," Punia said.

I have not missed a dope test nor shied away from giving the whereabouts. There was a case of delay in giving my whereabouts details but that was due to a wrong password given to me by the NADA to fill the ADAMS form.

"They (NADA) gave me the password of a woman boxer named Seema Poonia who has a different date of birth and I wasted three-four days in working on it," she said.

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