Accused of bribing her way to the Beijing Olympics, weightlifter Shailaja Pujari on Wednesday broke her silence by dismissing charges of corruption and claimed she is the "right candidate" for the Games.
She also said selecting any other weightlifter in her place for the competition would be the violation of the rules of International Weightlifting Federation.
Shailaja, who has served out a two-year ban for a doping offence, has been alleged to have paid a bribe of Rs five lakh to the Indian Weightlifting Secretary B R Gulati for her selection ahead of Monika Devi.
The alleged bribe scandal prompted the Sports Ministry to inquire into the incident and direct the IWF to send Monika Devi for the Games.
Shailaja said she was shocked to learn that the Sports Ministry had recommended Monika (69kg), who was far behind her in trials conducted by the IWF after the International Weightlifting Federation had awarded the quota to India for points earned by a team and not an individual during the Senior Asian Championships in Japan in April.
In a letter to the Andhra Pradesh General Secretary L Venkatram Reddy, she wrote that since the quota was earned by the Indian team, the final selection had to be done through trials in which she proved herself as the best.
"I am the rightful candidate to be sent to the Olympics 2008 and sending any other weightlifter shall be a blatant mistake and against the laid rules of the IWF," Shailaja said.
Shailaja said she had stood first in the trials and proved her eligibility by giving the best performance in the trials in Pune which was based on the IWF rules but is ready for re-trials.
"I also appeal to you to conduct selection trials in your presence at any place at any given time so that I prove my better ability and be rightful candidate for the entry to the Olympic Games. I beg your intervention in this regard and justice to me and the sport," she said.
Shailaja said she was stunned to see the Government suggest Monika's name ahead of her for the top competition.
"I was shocked to see in papers that Monika Devi, who was far behind me in the Sinclair formula and in current world rankings, was recommended for selection by the Sports Ministry to be send to the Beijing Olympics Games," she said.
Explaining the selection, Shailaja said since it is team quota, trials are the best way to select a candidate's name.
"The single Olympic berth was provided for our country by the IWF on the points we [the Indian Women Weightlifting team] acquired at the Senior Asian Championships, Kanazawa City, Japan, in the last week of April,2008," Shailaja said.
"The Indian team had stood fourth position of non qualified notions and awarded one Olympic berth for which the Indian Federation shall conduct trials and select the best women weightlifter for sending to the Olympic games 2008. It is not because of any one weightlifter but for the team performance of the whole Indian team we got the berth."
"The criteria for the selection is based on performance of the three probables on the day of the selection trials by following the IWF's Sinclair formula... I became the best weightlifter as per the formula and also stood first in the latest rankings," Shailaja said.
The state association also said that the whole episode is an exercises to malign the weightlifter.
"We are quite concerned about the controversy created to malign P Shailaja with ulterior motive of jeopardizing her selection as the member of Indian weightlifting team for Beijing Olympics," Reddy said in a letter to Gulati.
"Understandably vested interests would have taken over to capitalise on the same to serve their own ends.
"We are addressing this letter to you with the request to appreciate the above and ensure that the fine chances of a meritorious and deserving weightlifter, Shailaja, do not suffer in anyway," he said.