Dope shame returned to haunt Indian weightlifting as two-time Commonwealth Games champion Sanjita Chanu on Thursday tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid and was provisionally suspended by the international federation.
International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) said on its website that Sanjita, who had won a gold in the women's 53kg category in the recent Gold Coast CWG, has tested positive for testosterone.
"IWF reports that the sample of Ms. Sanjita Chanu Khumukcham (IND) has returned an Adverse Analytical Finding for Testosterone (S1.1 Anabolic Agents). As a consequence, the Athlete is provisionally suspended in view of a potential anti-doping rule violation," IWF stated.
"In any case where it is determined that the Athlete did not commit an anti-doping rule violation, the relevant decision will also be published," the IWF added.
The IWF did not give details, such as the dates, of the dope test sample collection, saying "it will not make any further comments on the case until it is closed".
Sanjita has been asked to leave the national camp by the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) after the dope result reached the national body on May 15 and she has left for her home in Manipur. The other weightlifters are currently training at SAI Centre at Shilaroo in Himachal Pradesh.
IWLF Secretary General Sahdev Yadav confirmed that Sanjita's 'A' sample has returned positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition test. He said the dope sample was taken prior to the World Championship in Anaheim (US) in November last year.
The Indian weightlifters had arrived in the US a few days before the Championship to acclimatise with the conditions there.
"The sample was taken out-of-competition in the US prior to the World Championship and the international federation has intimated us on May 15 that Sanjita's 'A' sample has returned positive for a banned substance," Yadav said.
Sanjita got the backing of the IWLF with Yadav saying that he was confident she has not done anything wrong.
"We don't understand why the dope result took so long. After the sample was taken, she competed in the World Championship in November last and then she won a gold in the Gold Coast CWG in April. We will fight it out why this is happening," he said.
"In any case, we have written that we would go for the 'B' sample test. After we got the results we will hire a top lawyer to present our case at the hearing (at the international federation). I am sure Sanjita has not taken any banned drugs. I am confident we will prove her innocence," he added.
Yadav also said that there was no danger of India losing the gold medal won by Sanjita in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
If her 'B' sample also tests positive, she is expected to be handed a maximum of four-year ban from the sport.
Sanjita had taken part in the 53kg class in the World Championship in Anaheim (US) in November last year, finishing 13th with a total lift of 177kg.
She lifted a total of 192kg top win the gold in 53kg in Gold Coast. She had also won a gold in the 48kg category in the 2014 CWG in Glasgow.
The 24-year-old Sanjita was on May 9 included in the Sports Ministry's Target Olympic Podium Scheme for funding for her Asian Games preparations. But her name is expected to be struck off from the TOP Scheme list if she is finally ruled to have committed a dope offence.
The latest dope flunk will hit hard Indian weightlifting whose profile has been on the upswing in recent times, especially after Mirabai Chanu's gold medal in 48kg class in the same World Championship where Sanjita tested positive.
After a dope free 2016, one weightlifter -- Sushila Panwar -- returned positive in a test conducted by the international federation. Sanjita's case is the first dope positive result of this year.
Recently, the International Weightlifting Federation has decided to punish dope offending countries to limit their quotas for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the IOC applied pressure to clean the tainted sport.
It was decided that countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus will be given only two places each at Tokyo 2020 -- as the new rules state that any nation with 20 or more doping violations from 2008 to 2020 will have just one man and one woman at the Games.
Countries with 10-19 doping violations over that same period will be limited to two men and two women in Tokyo. At least nine more countries, including Bulgaria, Iran and India fall into that category.
This decision to limit Olympic quotas, however, will not have much impact on India as the country has not been sending more than two weightlifters each in men and women's sections in the Olympics during the past few editions.
Before Sanjita's case, 12 Indian weightlifters have tested positive in the tests conducted by the international federation from 2008.