Firmly denying that officials had forced sportspersons to take to drugs during the Hyderabad National Games last year, the Andhra Pradesh government on Monday dismissed allegations made by gold medallist Udaylakshmi as "ridiculous" and "rubbish", and said the charges came out of "sheer frustration" of the athlete.
"As the host state we wanted our state team to perform well and gave all the infrastructure, training and facilities needed for the athletes. It is rubbish on part of Lakshmi to level such charges against the state," Andhra Pradesh Sports Minister P Ramulu said.
In a startling revelation on Sunday, Udaylakshmi, who won gold medals in the 400 metres hurdles and 4x400 metres relay apart from a bronze in the 400 metres at the Hyderabad Games, accused the officials of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP) of encouraging the athletes to take to drugs so that "Andhra Pradesh could come on top".
SAAP managing director L V Subrahmanyam also dismissed the allegation as baseless.
"It is ridiculous. You cannot expect us to encourage athletes to take drugs and win medals for the state. It must be sheer frustration that is making her speak in such desperate terms," Subrahmanyam said.
Subrahmanyam said Udaylakshmi's outburst could be due to the fact that she was not selected for the first leg of Asian Grand Prix meet held in Hyderabad in May last year.
"She had approached me and wanted the state to intervene in the selection process. But I told her that the selection mechanism would take its own course and such delicate issues cannot be managed.
"We were very firm to ensure that the Games were dope-free," Subrahmanyam said. "We had given the literature on banned substances to the athletes, coaches and circulated booklets on the do's and dont's."
He said the government had not only given just the names of the banned drugs but also names of chemical compounds that could test positive and undertook a wide publicity campaign on anti-doping.
"We had done this after an assurance that doping would be taken seriously by all the federations. Before ordering for the doping kits, I insisted that the state would not spend money on the kits if the doping exercise would end up as a farce," Subrahmanyam said, adding that the kits were purchased only after the federations agreed to take action on those testing positive for drugs.
"We have taken a very conscious decision to put an end to such unfair practices. The announcement of names of those who tested positive for using banned drugs during the National event is a reflection of our seriousness in putting an end to such ugly practices," he said.
But Udaylakshmi, who had also hit out at the government for its decision to withhold the cash incentives for dope-tainted athletes, questioned the timing of the announcement of the list of dope-offenders, saying it had come just days before the government was to give away the promised rewards to the medal winning athletes.
"If any athlete is found guilty for taking banned substances, the concerned Federation punishes by slapping a ban. The same athlete cannot be punished again by withholding the incentives," she maintained.