Three of India’s top athletes are set to have their qualification marks for Rio investigated by the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) as part of an inquiry into alleged fake or suspect performances.
Statistical officials have reportedly flagged up triple jump star Renjith Maheshwary, long jumper Ankit Sharma and sprinter Srabani Nanda after they all broke personal bests to achieve the Olympic standard earlier this year.
The trio failed to repeat those record displays in Brazil last month and have now raised doubts over whether their achievements were genuine or not.
In July, Maheshwary leapt to a national record of 17.30m in Bangalore on the final cut-off date for qualification at an unscheduled Indian Grand Prix. At the Games, he only totalled 16.13m, well over a metre less.
A month before, Sharma clocked 8.19m, another personal best, as well as a national record at the Almaty international meet. At the same venue, Nanda sped to 23.03 seconds in the 200m.
In Brazil, Sharma struggled with 7.67m, again well below his previous mark; while Nanda posted 23.58secs.
Statisticians Mirko Jalava from Finland and German Heinrich Hubbeling, who devises the Asian athletics rankings, have been comparing fluctuating times and distances,with a reported 39 results before Rio that led to qualification under the doubtful/suspicious category.
The Indians are among athletes from Albania, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan whose performances are under the scanner.
“The IAAF has created a panel with some officials looking for ‘faked performances and faked birthdates’ in the future,” Hubbeling said.
“We all hope for decisions by the IAAF, including action against the officials who were involved in such fraudulent actions.”
Hubbeling added: “In the 1990s, we had a similar situation mostly by African countries, which entered athletes with supposedly faked performances. When I pointed out this situation to the IAAF, the respective federations got warnings and this cheating stopped.
“For some years now, this cheating has been resumed by some other federations.”
In four months, Sharma went from 7.92m in May, 8.19m in June, then 7.67m in August; he blamed weather conditions and pressure to succeed. Athletics Federation of India (AFI) secretary general CK Valson said he personally measured Maheshwary’s 17.30m.
There are also doubts about Dutee Chand’s 100m time of 11.24secs at Almaty. Experts claim it could have been due to a faulty timing system.
IAAF chief Sebastian Coe said. “When a time or height or distance is registered, it is important we have assurance it is a bona fide reading, particularly if it is being used as a qualification for a championships.
“We have dealt with a number of cases where we have been suspicious of a mark.”