With firm backing from the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF), dope-tainted lifter Monika Devi on Wednesday claimed innocence and alleged that she is being victimised by some members of the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Monika, the lone weightlifter chosen to represent India in the Beijing Olympic Games, was prevented from boarding her flight to Beijing on Tuesday night for testing positive for a banned anabolic salt but the Manipuri said she has no idea which dope test she flunked as she cleared four tests in the last two months.
"I am innocent. I have always stayed away from doping and that is why I was selected in the trials," a tearful Monika said in New Delhi.
"Everyone knows there are various international tests and no sensible athlete would do that [dope]. I am ready to go to Beijing where my dope test is scheduled for tomorrow. If I fail there leave apart banning me for life, shoot me in public," she said.
Monika, who was selected ahead of Andhra weightlifter Shailaja Pujari in the Indian selection trials last month, claimed some people in the SAI are trying to make case for Shailaja due to regional allegiance.
"I had no clue about anything till 7.30 pm yesterday and at 10-10.30 it was all chaos. It was a pre-meditated move because they did not give me tickets and other stuff required for travelling to Beijing when I asked for it and told me to collect it on the next day," she said.
Monika claimed SAI director (Teams) R K Naidu had already planned to send Shailaja.
"Naidu had told me after the Asian Championships in Japan in April that 'our job of winning one Olympic berth was done and now Shailaja would be sent to represent the country in Olympics," she said.
"Everyone wants to promote the player of his region," she added.
Indian Weightlifting Federation general secretary B R Gulati, who was also present at the press conference, said the IWF is behind Monika.
"They have not cared to inform me. We were not knowing about the incident till 7 in the evening and suddenly we are slapped with this. I don't know which tests they are talking about. As far as I am concerned these are invalid tests. Our lab is also not WADA accredited. We are firmly behind her," he said.
"I have not stopped her or selected her. Sending her was a prerogative of the IOA," he added.
Gulati said the entire turn of events smacks of conspiracy to sabotage Monika's Olympic candidature.
"The substance which she is accused of having consumed is a substance the effects of which last for a minimum six months to a maximum of two years.
"No lifter even at the district level after being selected for an event like Olympics will take a substance which he or she knows will be detected even after six months.
"It could only be a mischief or sabotage by inducting it orally to somebody about which also we have expressed our apprehension in writing to the Government.
"And we insisted on SAI to remove the coaches who are not required with us in Beijing. Why were they interfering in the training?" he said.