The doping scandal in Indian athletics grew in proportion with two more athletes, including the country's new golden girl Ashwini Akkunji, testing positive for anabolic steroids hours before the departure for Japan for the Asian Championships.
Apart from Akkunji, quartermiler Priyanka Panwar also returned positive for anabolic steroids in the dope tests conducted on June 27 by NADA at NIS Patiala, taking the tally of dope offenders to eight in the last few days.
The development is all the more shocking as Akkunji, who had won gold in Commonwealth and Asian Games last year, and Panwar were to leave for Japan for July 7-11 Asian Championships by an 11:30 pm flight from here along with 35 other athletes.
Athletics Federation of India has provisionally suspended both the athletes pending a hearing by a NADA disciplinary panel.
"It is sad to announce that two more athletes Ashwini Akkunji and Priyanka Panwar -- tested positive for anabolic steroids. We have provisionally suspended them. Next, they will be called for 'B' sample tests and then the necessary procedure will be followed," Dogra told reporters.
Akkunji and Panwar were named in the 4x400m relay team for the Asian Championships and Dogra said two other athletes in the 37-member team will take their places.
"We cannot send any replacement of the two athletes now but we will field a relay team in Japan. Two other athletes (besides Tintu Luka and Mrudula Korada) from the team will run in the relay," he said.
Both Akkunji and Priyanka tested positive for metabolites of methandienone, which were found in the samples of other CWG and Asian Games gold-winning relay quartet members Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose as well another qaurtermiler Jauna Murmu.
Another qaurtermiler Tiana Mary Thomas had tested positive for anabolic steroid epimethandiol.
Long Jumper Hari Krishnan Muralidharan and shot putter Sonia were the other athletes who have tested positive in the last few days.
Interestingly, Akkunji and Priyanka's dope flunk came from the tests on 30 samples conducted by NADA for the Asian Championships bound athletes on the request of AFI.
Ashwini was a member of the 400m relay quartet that won gold in the Commonwealth Games. She had returned with two gold in the Asian Games, winning the yellow metal in 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay.
Panwar's best international result was the bronze she won in the South Asian Federation Games in Dhaka last year. She had won a bronze in the 100m sprint in the National Games in Ranchi in February. She made it to the relay team after finishing fourth in the National Inter-state meet in Bangalore.
With the dope flunk of Akkunji, three members of the Indian 4x400m relay quartet that won gold in the Commonwealth and Asian Games last year have tested positive.
Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose had returned positive for the anabolic substances in the tests conducted by IAAF on May 25 and by NADA during the National Inter-state Meet in Bangalore this month respectively. Only Manjeet Kaur remained out of the dope net.
There had been speculation that Akkunji and Panwar could test positive as they shared the same vitamin supplements used by Mandeep and Sini.