Salwan Marathon gets tough with cheats

Last Updated: Sat, Nov 03, 2012 09:50 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) Inder Dutt Salwan has been organising the biggest cross-country run for schoolboys and girls in the country for the past 18 years. Yet he is an unhappy man because he has been left alone to fight the scourge of doping and also the menace of age fudging.

The director of Salwan Group of schools has a knack of catching the offenders. It is remarkable when over 45,000 youngsters are running in different age groups. He is tired of arguing with the principals of schools, physical directors, teachers and parents to keep their wards off the twin evils.

Salwan has been one of the key proponents of running. He started the Salwan Marathon in 1995 and the event has grown to become the largest race for school students in the world, as recognised by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

The event which saw merely 300 students participating in the first edition, had more than 47,000 participants last year.

Salwan takes great pride in saying that it is a race that transcends all barriers and the list of winners vindicates his claim, most of them representing schools from far-flung areas of the sprawling capital.

The 18th edition Salwan Marathon will be flagged off Sunday at Brar Square in the Delhi Cantonment and some key changes have been made to make the run more interesting.

"I have picked some ideas from other marathons around the world. I went to England and saw the London marathon and that helped me to make useful changes," he told IANS.

For the visually impaired the course has been increased from 3.5 kms to 4.5 while for the under-16 boys and girls it has been increased to 6 kms from 5.5.

This year he wanted to make it clean, foolproof race and went to the AFI, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and Directorate of Sports, Delhi Government, for help in weeding out the culprits. None of them showed any keenness in getting involved for fear of inviting the wrath of the schools and parents.

One of them did not want the dope test to be carried out and another was opposed to the children being subjected to age verification scientifically.

Dutt was unwilling to blame any of the agencies. He straightaway decided to pay a price to keep the sport clean and engaged an internationally reputed diagnostic lab Religare to conduct the clinical tests to check doping and pick out age violators.

"Maybe, I could not convince the official agencies or they did not want to get into the serious business of dope testing or verifying their age. Also, perhaps, I could not forcefully tell them that it's a sin for over-age boys to win races in the lower-age group," Dutt, himself a passionate runner, told IANS.

What is unnerving the organisers is that young school students are also indulging in taking performance-enhancing drugs to win events at this lower levels of competition in the Salwan Marathon.

"Last year we found left-over syringes. Doping has become commonplace now. Coaches need to be careful what they give to their kids and educate them on the ill-effects of drugs," said Dutt.

"Kids nowadays are getting into all the wrong things. That is why we are conducting dope tests and age-verification tests to keep this competition clean."

Only a year back six Indian athletics witnessed its biggest doping scandal involving six top women athletes, including three Asian and Commonwealth Games gold medallists. The saga ended with the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sports awarding an enhanced ban of two years on them.

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