New Delhi: Former hurdler and Athletics Federation of India`s selection panel head G S Randhawa has protested the Dronacharya award to be conferred on K P Thomas and questioned the Keralite`s claims of mentoring stars like Anju Bobby George in a letter to the Sports Ministry.
Himself a contender for the award this year, Randhawa said there are several instances where the "deserving ones are left waiting in the wings while the pushy type get away with the honours".
Randhawa, who finished fifth in the 110m hurdles event of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, said Thomas` name getting the nod for Dronacharya award has stunned even the AFI.
"...The Athletics fraternity in India is surprised rather shocked to learn that K.P. Thomas is selected to receive Dronacharya Award this year.
"There are many outstanding coaches in our country who have been denied the Dronacharya Award where as there are quite a few who devoid of merit but having "influential connections" have been able to get the award, in blatant violation of the existing rules.
"This year the Dronacharya Award will be given to a person who has never attended any National Coaching Camp or gone with the Indian athletes to take part in any major International Athletics Championships," he explained.
Questioning Thomas` credentials, Randhawa said his background and achievements should be throughly checked again.
"Shri K.P. Thomas has claimed that he had coached Anju Bobby George, Shiny Wilson and Jincy Phillip. Shri Bobby George has already been awarded Dronacharya Award for the athletic performance of Anju Bobby George; similarly Shri Hargobind Singh has been awarded Dronacharya Award for the athletic performance of Shiny Wilson," he asserted.
"Jincy Phillip for the past 17 years have been serving with the CRPF and has continuously trained at the national camps conducted by the AFI; interestingly enough, Shri K.P. Thomas has never been considered by Athletics Federation of India to impart training at the national camps", Randhawa said.
"Hence, his claim of training the above mentioned three athletes needs to be scrutinised meticulously as it does not appear factual."
Randhawa said while Thomas may have coached these athletes at the start of their careers but he cannot be credited for their overall performance.
"Shri K.P. Thomas might have contributed to the development of these athletes at some beginner level before they advanced to an elite status under the proper coaching by Shri Bobby George or Shri Hargobind Singh or the coaching being imparted at the National camps. This aspect raises two critical questions. How many coaches can be given Dronacharya Award for the winning performance of one (same) individual athlete?" he asked.
"Should the award be given to the coaches or for that matter Physical Education Instructors at Schools who spot the talent and initiate athletes into respective sports but are unable to take them to next level of elite performance?" he added.
Randhawa requested the Ministry to delay announcing the official list of awardees till the time Thomas` credentials are not verified.
"To maintain the sanctity of the Dronacharya Award, I would like to request you to look into this matter personally and get the authenticity of claimed achievements of Shri K.P. Thomas verified from Athletics Federation of India and till then the award may not be granted," he said.