Olympian Renjith Maheshwary has approached the Kerala High Court challenging a press release issued by the Secretary, Department of Sports withholding the Arjuna Award conferred to him in 2013 for athletics. After considering the plea, Single Bench of Justice N Nagaresh issued notice to the respondents.
The triple jumper in his plea said, “after being informed that the petitioner will be conferred with the Arjuna Award for Athletics in 2013, the petitioner was informed orally by the Secretary to the Sports Department to withdraw from the ceremony just before the award ceremony. Thereafter, the Department issued another press release mentioning that the award has been kept in abeyance pending investigation about an alleged suspension and ban in 2008 doping charges during the 46th National Open Championship held at Kochi,” the plea said.
“The petitioner was never informed about the said doping charges during 2008-2009 or about the punishments. He had not been visited with any kind of disciplinary action in his athletic career. Apart from the said press release, there was no official communication either to the petitioner or to his parental institution, Indian Railway, regarding the alleged suspension and or restrictions from the national game as alleged in the press release. And there was no communication to him or to his knowledge, his parent institution regarding the presence of a specified substance in the sample collected from the petitioner during the said event,” said Maheshwary in his plea.
He sought to the Court to direct the Secretary to revoke the decision to cancel the Arjuna Award that was originally conferred upon him. He also sought a directive to the respondents to produce the list of sportspersons who had been violating doping rules and against whom action was taken by them during the period January 1, 2003, to December 31, 2008, in a sealed cover before the Court, pending disposal of the petition.
The petition further read that, “during the alleged period of suspension and ban, the petitioner was undergoing training with the Director-General of Sports Authority and that the Centre was meeting his expenses.
“Thereafter from April 2009, he had joined the national camp under the aegis of the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) to participate in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, implying that there was no ban imposed on him,” stated the plea.
“Contrary to the information issued on the press release, the 46th National Athletic Championship was held not in Kochi, but in New Delhi. It was the 48th National Championship that was held at Kochi. He had returned from Beijing Olympics a few days before the 48th National Championship and won a gold medal for triple jump. His performance was recorded as 15.35 meters which were far below his usual performance during the relevant period,” further stated the plea.
“Due to the variations in climate and long hours of travel from Beijing, he had developed a throat infection and cough. Accordingly, he consulted a Government Doctor at Chennai and reported the same to the authorities. During that period petitioner was informed by his doctor attached to AFI that Ephedrine had been detected in the sample and the petitioner submitted the medical certificates issued by the Government doctor at Chennai,” said the plea.
The petition said, “In 2008, the Director of the National Dope Testing Laboratory who conducted the analysis of the sample was not having the accreditation of the World Anti Doping Agency and that there was no standard operating procedure during that time. When the Laboratory received accreditation in 2009, a list of sportspersons found to have used prohibited drugs was published. But petitioner’s name was not on the list.
“The persons whose names were there in the published list of dope tainted sports persons were bestowed with Arjuna Award in 2005 and 2021. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner had requested records pertaining to the dope allegations through the Right Information Act but his efforts went in vain,” it read.
“It is with utmost pain and grief that the petitioner and his wife are subjected to continuous taunting from various statures of the society about the fake and arbitrary doping charges of the year 2008, which was inculpated upon the petitioner in 2013 by press release. It was to the startle of the petitioner that such a charge arose out of nothing,” the plea further read.
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