The scourge of needles has returned to haunt the Indian contingent. This time, the athletes have been booked, removed from the athletes' village and directed to be packed off out of Australia by the first plane.
The Commonwealth Games Federation (CFG) called the statements of race walker KT Irfan and triple jumper Rakesh Babu -- who were charged with breaching the 'no needle policy' after a needle was recovered from their room -- "unreliable and evasive", and was prompt in penalizing them. But Indian officials argued that Irfan was unfairly dragged into the case without sufficient evidence to implicate him and announced that they would appeal against the decision.
Irfan finished 13th in his event last week while Babu was to compete on Saturday.
In its statement, the CGF said that a needle was found in a cup on the bedside table in the room assigned to Babu and Irfan, and that the testimony of the Australia Sports Anti-Doping Authority principal investigator regarding the discovery of a syringe in Babu's bag in his room was also credible.
It was the second reported instance of a breach by members of the Indian contingent. In the days leading up to the Games, Indian boxers were caught in a similar controversy after a needle that hadn't been disposed as stipulated earned the team doctor a warning.
According to Indian contingent chef de mission Vikram Sisodia, the incident of needle recovery by a cleaner happened on April 9 and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) received a letter from the CGF the following day. After that three athletes -- Irfan, Babu and weightlifter Vikas Thakur -- were summoned before the medical commission.
"Thakur was asked to appear before the commission while he was on his way to the airport, his bags searched though he'd given his dope samples in the morning," Indian team manager Namdev Shirgaonkar said. "He had to give a dope test too but nothing was found against him, so he was let off. We asked the CGF why Vikas was called and all the explanation they gave us was that they were acting on a tip-off from a reliable source."
There was confusion regarding all that transpired, with Indian officials claiming they had little idea about the whys and hows of whatever happened.
IOA secretary Rajeev Mehta said both athletes would be liable to sanctions back home as determined by the association's Medical and Ethics Commission. "Despite handing out an educational note to all NSF's a month before the Games and repeated messages on compliance of the CGF's 'No Needle Policy', athletes here fail to understand it and so they are being sent home," he said.