Middle distance runner Gomathi Marimuthu, a farmer’s daughter, won the 800 metres gold at the Asian Athletics Championship last month in Doha but on Tuesday was handed a four-year-ban after being tested positive for a banned substance. The 30-year-old runner from Tamil Nadu, who clocked two minute and 2.70 seconds to win the gold on April 22, has returned positive for 19-norandrosterone, a metabolite of nandrolone (an anabolic steroid), in the test conducted during the Asian Championships, and as a result she could now lose her medal, a news report in the Deccan Herald stated.

According to the PTI reports, Gomathi had been handed a provisional suspension. A source from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) also quoted confirming the news saying, “Yes, Gomathi has tested positive for a steroid and she has been placed under provisional suspension.”

International athletics federation’s Athletics (IAAF) took to Twitter late on Tuesday to confirm Gomathi’s dope flunk.

“The AIU confirms Provisional Suspensions against Indian sprinter (sic) Gomathi Marimuthu and Bahraini long-distance runner Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa, both for a violation of the @iaaforg Anti-Doping Rules,” the AIU tweeted.

How family reacted

A family member of Gomathi vouched for her saying she was innocent and had never used banned substances. “Till now, we have not got any information on this issue from any authority. She is innocent and she has not taken any prohibited substance,” the family member said from Gomathi’s home in Tamil Nadu, NDTV reported.

When asked Gomathi told The Hindu“I don’t know what really happened, I will surely be asking for my ‘B’ sample to be tested. I was supposed to fly to Spala (Poland) today.”

She was supposed to leave from Delhi for Spala on Tuesday with a team of athletes for training and competition but the federation has now stopped her from going. “She tested positive in both (Federation Cup and Asians),” confirmed Adille Sumariwalla, the AFI president.

In the past during the March 15-18 Federation Cup Gomathi was tested positive for a banned substance in the sample the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) collected in Patiala. “We have learnt that Gomathi also tested positive in the sample taken during the Federation Cup which was held in mid-March. But that report is yet to reach us even now, after more than two months. That report is on the way, we have told. If the report was handed to us on time, she would have been stopped from taking part in the Asian Championships and the country would have been saved from this humiliation. We have no idea why the NADA did not inform us on Gomathi’s dope positive result to us before the Asian Championships. There was more than one month’s time in between,” the AFI official said.

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Gomathi’s 2:03.21 performance and a gold triumphant in the Federation Cup in March raised questions over her sudden improvement since her performance till then was somewhat mediocre.

“She was not in the national camp and that is why we have been emphasising on the requirement that athletes who have to take part in the international events should be from the national camp,” the official said.

Achievements so far

The youngest of four kids of a farm labourer, Gomathi began her professional running when she was 20. She trained regularly for years, which led her to reach the final of the 800m event at the Asian Championship in Pune in 2013. Two years later, in Wuhan, China, she finished fourth in the same event.

This latest edition of the Asian Athletics Championships turned out to be third time lucky for Gomathi, who had finished seventh in the Asian Championships in 2013 and fourth in 2015. This time she secured a berth during a confirmatory trial in Patiala where she was paced by quarter-miler MR Poovamma. She moved past Kazakhstan’s Margarita Mukasheva and China’s Wang Chunyu to clinch the gold medal with a personal best timing of 2:02.70s. Her previous best (2:03.21) was at the Federation Cup, where she won gold in Patiala.

Feature Image Credit: AFI/Facebook

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