Her name cleared of doping charges, two-time CWG champion Sanjita Chanu is hoping to receive the recognition she deserves, starting with the prestigious Arjuna Award which has eluded her since 2016. The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), on the recommendation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), dropped the doping charge against Chanu after more than two-and-a-half years of investigation, making the 26-year-old eligible to apply for the Arjuna Award. “I applied for Arjuna first in 2016 but I was not given it then. I was ignored again in 2017 despite having the points,” Chanu told PTI from Manipur. “But then because of this dope case, I was ineligible. I am going to try and get it now,” she added.
Chanu, who won gold at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games in 48kg and 53kg respectively, has been trying for the prestigious award for the past four years. After she was ignored for the second time in 2017, she filed a writ petition before the Delhi HC, challenging the decision of the Awards Committee to exclude her name from those recommended for the coveted honour.
The High Court in its order had directed the Awards Committee to consider Chanu for the Arjuna Award and keep its decision in a sealed cover to be disclosed only if she is absolved of the doping charges which happened on June 8.
The 26-year-old had also applied for the award last month as her provisional suspension was revoked and IWF had allowed her to compete in tournaments.
However, since her case had not been closed the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) informed her that she was ineligible for the sports awards, which cannot be given to dope-tainted athletes. But on Wednesday, the IWLF wrote to the sports ministry to comply with the High Court order.
“I have always performed well and have two medals in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and in Gold Coast without doping. I am lifting for 11-12 years. I don’t know why I have been ignored for this award till now,” Chanu added.
The deadline for submitting applications for the national sports awards has also been extended till June 22 by the sports ministry. Chanu, who holds the CWG snatch record in the 53kg weight category, is happy after being exonerated of the doping charges that once pushed her to the brink of quitting the sport, but the weightlifter says the final verdict feels bitter-sweet as she’s still struggling to find closure.
“I am very happy, I was waiting for this day for so many years. But the result is also sad as my life has changed completely. It has been ruined because of this case.”
After demanding answers and explanations for over a year and a half since her provisional ban was lifted last year in January, on Tuesday night, Chanu received an email from IWF just stating the case was “closed” and the “IWF has decided to withdraw the charges.”
“They should give a proper response. Instead, they have just written two lines. I have suffered so much because of this. This cannot end it like this. You put an athlete under suspension for years without a final judgement, and one fine day you send an email saying that you are now free from charges?” “I cannot explain what I have gone through, to be kept in uncertainty for so long. I was so disheartened that I thought I’d just leave the sport because what happened to me was so incredibly unfair,” Chanu said.
In a case that was marred with discrepancies at every level, Chanu is now demanding an apology and compensation from the IWF for causing her mental trauma. “Obviously an apology won’t take away my suffering. But I want an explanation because there is still no clarity about my case. I will file a case against the IWF to Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), ” she said.
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