Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar, who is currently serving a 21-month doping ban, has been named by the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) in their list of core probables for the national camp, set to begin on May 23. The GFI has chosen 10 senior women artistic gymnasts and 12 men for the list, along with six juniors in each of the men’s and women’s sections. Dipa Karmakar(AFP)
The probables were selected after trials in Bhubaneshwar for juniors on May 5 and for seniors on May 6. Dipa Karmakar and 19-year-old Protistha Samanta, both from Tripura and coached by Dronacharya Awardee coach Bishweshwar Nandi, were not present at the trials. Dipa could not appear due to her ban, and Samanta was reportedly injured. The federation later made an exception for her.
“Samanta gave us an application explaining her unavailability due to injury, but we included her in the list because she is a good gymnast and can win us medals. Dipa can compete only after her ban ends, but we included her in the camp so that she can later appear in Asian Games selection trials. These are our best gymnasts, and teams for international events till Asian Games will be picked from this lot,” said Chairman of GFI’s selection committee Ashok Sahu.
Teams for international competitions starting with next month’s Asian Championships in Singapore and ending with Asian Games in Hangzhou will be picked from this lot. Dipa’s retrospective ban from the International Testing Agency for testing positive for the drug Higenamine, which is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List since 2017, ends on July 10.
Only national campers are eligible to participate in trials. The last date for entries for the Asian Games is July 15. The GFI is keen on conducting the Asiad selection trials between July 10-15 to give Dipa a chance to participate.
Dipa also does not have a license from the gymnastics’ governing body FIG, which is mandatory for participation in international events. Currently, only 13 senior Indian women gymnasts have the FIG license.
“Dipa obviously can’t compete before her ban ends. This is just a list for the national camp. The team for the Asian Games will be picked through trials that will be held after her ban period ends,” said GFI President Sudhir Mittal.
The World Anti-Doping Agency prohibits any athlete or person declared ineligible from participating in a competition or activity authorized or organized by any signatory or signatory’s member organization, or in competitions authorized or organized by any professional league or international or national-level event organization or by any elite or national level sporting activity funded by a governmental agency.
“Once an athlete is suspended by FIG, he/she cannot be part of the camp before the expiry of the ban period. The probables for national camps are selected either by open trials or limited trials. Sometimes, exceptions are made for good international players, but the exception doesn’t apply in cases of doping bans,” said an official who didn’t wish to be named.
The list had been mailed from the GFI president to state associations on May 14, but it was not shared with all athletes. Most gymnasts were informed about their selection through their employers, who shared a list of 32 names, minus Dipa and Samanta, with them a couple of days after the trials. A gymnast who is part of core probables was surprised to find Dipa’s name when the list was publicly released.
“It’s inexplicable. The addition of a suspended athlete to the national camp makes little sense. The list shared with us after the trials didn’t have Dipa and Samanta’s names; their names appear to have been added after some deliberation. It looks like some lobby is at work,” said the gymnast. The GFI is contemplating holding the camp either at the high-performance center in Bhubaneswar or at the IG Stadium in the capital.