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 October 23, 2002 | 1300 IST

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Sunita Rani has been framed: Milkha Singh

Onkar Singh in New Delhi

Sunita Rani, who was stripped of her Asian Games medals for taking performance-enhancing drugs, was framed, the legendary Milkha Singh said on Wednesday.

He blamed the Indian officials for not coming to the rescue of Rani, who won a gold and bronze at the recently concluded games in Busan, South Korea.

"I have seen the statement of Sunita Rani on television network, wherein she has pleaded not guilty. I tend to believe the girl. She is a poor girl who has worked hard throughout her life. I am shocked at the manner in which the Indian officials behaved in Busan. Though Suresh Kalmadi is also the president of the Asian Athletics Federation, he did not come to the rescue of the girl," he said.

He lauded the statement of Rani that if the Amateur Athletics Federation of India put too much of pressure on her and tried to blame her she would expose all other athletes who were on drugs.

"I have been saying that some of the top athletes have been taking drugs to enhance their performance. Sunita should be bold enough to expose the drug scandal that has hit the Indian athletic scene in last few years. The coaches, officials and even ministry officials are aware of the fact that Indian athletes take drugs.

"China and Japan have also won so many medals, but it was only Sunita Rani who was caught. I think she has been framed to bring disrepute to the country," he said.

He lashed out at the AAFI for "fooling" the country by appointing a one-man commission of inquiry headed by its vice-president, Sushil Salwan.

"I am told they have threatened Sunita Rani... told her that if she went to the media and said anything against other athletes then she would be in deep trouble. That is why she ran away from the media," he added.

This is the first time that Singh has defended an Indian athlete who has been accused of drug abuse.

Sikdar lashes out at Sunita Rani
OCA strips Rani of Asiad medals
Rani stripped of Asian Games medals
IOA promises 'strictest' action against Rani
Sunita Rani fails another dope test
Sunita Rani tests positive for Nandrolone
Rani denies having taken banned drug
Sunita Rani's coach denies doping report
Asian Games: The Complete Coverage