New Delhi: An Indian athletics competition ended in farce when just one sprinter competed in the 100-metre final and another continued running beyond the finishing line chased by national anti-doping officers, officials said on Wednesday.
Several winners also skipped the medal ceremony fearing being asked to give samples during the Delhi State Athletics Championship, the Indian Express newspaper reported.
Officials told AFP that the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) arrived to conduct tests at the event on Tuesday, resulting in the number of participants on the third and final day of the competition falling by half.
The visit came a day after a video shared on social media appeared to show a washroom in the capital's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium littered with syringes and packets of the performance-enhancing drug Erythropoietin (EPO).
"We had written to the NADA on the second day of the competition asking them to come for testing," Sandeep Mehta, secretary of the Delhi Athletics Association told AFP on Wednesday.
"They have the full right to test those who disappeared. We will ban the athletes if they test positive and also recommend the national athletics body to do the same."
Indian sports has been rocked by several doping scandals with athletes testing positive during the Olympics, the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games, and 45 athletes have been suspended this year.
Lalit Kumar was the lone athlete in the 100-metre final, winning after the seven other sprinters backed out, reporting they had muscle strains or cramp.
"I was really looking forward to running against the best athletes, but nobody turned up," Kumar told the English-language newspaper.
"Everyone was scared of getting tested. As an athlete, I feel very hurt and let down."
Medal at any cost
In the junior steeplechase event, a girl continued to run even after crossing the finish line and a doping control officer had to chase her to get her sample.
The Under-16 boys hammer throw also had only one participant.
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"Some of the athletes did not even turn up to collect their medals," Delhi State Athletics Association president Sunny Joshua told the paper.
Kumar will be awarded a medal and a certificate even though he ran alone in the final, Mehta said.
"He competed with others in the heats; it's not his fault that the others did not turn up for the final," Mehta said.
India ranks second in the number of doping violations behind Russia, according to the latest report by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
In August, top Indian sprinter Dutee Chand was banned from competition for four years after failing two doping tests, and a 14-year-old swimmer was provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned substance.
P.S.M. Chandran, a sports medicine expert, told AFP that EPO is a prescription drug used to treat anaemia and certain types of cancers but "is easily available over the counter".
It boosts blood oxygen-carrying capacity, but can be harmful if misused, he warned.
"Athletes are not bothered about the side effects," Chandran said. "They just want to win a medal at any cost."