India duo sent home from Commonwealth Games for no-needles policy breach

India intend to appeal against the exclusion of race walker Irfan Kolothum Thodi, who was one of two Indian athletes sent home from the Commonwealth Games on Friday for a violation of the no-needles policy.

Thodi joined triple jumper Rakesh Babu in having his accreditation revoked and being removed from the athletes' village after needles were found in their apartment.

But in announcing the intention to appeal against the decision, India's athletics team manager Ravinder Chaudhry told a press conference on Friday that the needle was found in Babu's bag and he did not understand why Irfan had also been punished.

"There is a lot of confusion in the whole episode," he said. "Why they have banned two of our athletes. This is a big question, how they confirmed this syringe belongs to both. Our protest is why they banned Irfan. It was found in the bag of Mr Babu."

Chaudhry said that Babu admitted the bag in question belonged to him but denied knowledge of the needle and said he had not used it. However, India will not appeal against his exclusion as he was responsible for the bag. Thodi also denied ownership or knowledge of the needle.

Chaudhry added: "There are six athletes in the apartment. So why Irfan? Babu admitted 'it is from my bag', fine. If he has done something wrong they penalised him, it's OK. But we appeal on these grounds, why Irfan was given this punishment."

In announcing the punishment, the Commonwealth Games Federation had described evidence from Babu and Thodi as "unreliable and evasive", and asked the pair to leave Australia on the next available flight.

A CGF statement said: "Rakesh Babu and Irfan Kolothum Thodi are with immediate effect not permitted to participate in the Games."

India said a third athlete, weightlifter Vikas Thakur, who won bronze in the 94kg weight class here, was stopped on his way to the airport in relation to the incident. His bags were searched and he took a drugs test but was cleared, India said.

It is the second violation of the 'no needles' policy - designed to guard against doping practices - by the Indian team at these Games.

Indian team doctor Amol Patil was reprimanded on April 3 after administering vitamin B by injection because he did not follow strict protocol surrounding needles.

Friday's ruling on Babu and Thodi followed a hearing on Thursday by the CGF court.

It found India's chef de mission, Vikram Singh Sisodia, general team manager Namdev Shirgaonker, Chaudhry and "other persons acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Games Association of India...failed to ensure compliance with the no needle policy."

Testimony of a cleaning manager who found a cup containing a needle in one of the athletes' bedrooms was considered "credible".

So too was evidence from the Australia Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) principal investigator, who discovered a syringe in the bag of Babu, which the athlete "admitted to be his property," the CGF said.

The athletes denied all knowledge of the needles, said the CGF in dismissing their evidence.

Sisodia, Shirgaonker and Chaudhry have been given a strong reprimand and advised any further infraction will see the exclusion of the offending person.

CGF president Louise Martin said: "Both athletes have been removed from the village and we have asked for the Commonwealth Games Association of India to ensure that they depart Australia on the first available flight."

"When the Commonwealth Games Federation says no tolerance it means no tolerance. Those athletes are suspended and out."

- Press Association


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