Santhi scandal an insult to all Tamils

Chennai, Dec 20: Indian track and field athlete Santhi Soundarajan has been stripped of the Asian Games women's 800 metres silver medal after failing a gender test in Doha, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said on Tuesday (December 19).

The announcement came a day after Santhi was given Rs. 1.5 million by her home Tamil Nadu state government.

The 25-year-old was asked to undergo a femininity test in the Qatari capital after the December 9 race and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) directed India to return the medal upon the recommendation of its medical committee, an IOA statement said.

Santhi's disqualification allows third-placed Viktoriya Yalovtseva of Kazakhstan to claim silver and Uzbekistan's Zamira Amirova to move up from fourth to third. Maryam Jamal of Bahrain won the race.

The Indian media have attacked the National Athletics Federation after it was revealed that Santhi's application to the state-run railways for a job before the games was turned down because the athlete failed a medical.

The IOA said it would hold an inquiry into the issue, which has caused acute embarrassment to Indian sports officials.

Athletics Federation of India (AFI) secretary Lalit Bhanot said the federation was keen not to cause any distress to the athlete.

Santhi, like many Indian track and field athletics, took up sport to find a secure job and escape grinding poverty.

One of five children of brick-kiln labourers in a rural village in southern Tamil Nadu state, she overcame malnutrition as a child to become a middle-distance runner.

Her family could not even afford a television and watched Santhi's Doha race at a neighbour's house.

State sports minister Mohideen Khan said Santhi's conscience was clear and she did no wrong.

Khan said the reports had saddened and insulted the people of Tamil Nadu.

"Just after Shanti won the medal our Chief Minister announced that she would be awarded 1,500,000 rupees. That was because Shanti has brought a sense of pride to the entire Tamil Nadu state. But, unfortunately, unwarranted criticism is being levelled against the woman, which is an insult to all Tamil people."

Khan said the government would not take back the cash award because it had been given "on humanitarian grounds".

Bureau Report

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