When Lalit Kumar was in the starting blocks for the men’s 100-meter final at the Delhi state athletics meet on Tuesday, the 20-year-old’s only finish was first place.
All seven of Kumar’s opponents pulled out of the race at the capital’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium due to cramps or muscle strains. However, organizers suspect they pulled out after learning of the impending arrival of Indian Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) officials.
“A strange withdrawal is understandable, but when seven runners withdraw, you know something is wrong,” Delhi Athletics Association (DAA) secretary Sandeep Mehta told Reuters on Wednesday.
“There are also some throwers who disappeared before the competition and all of them should be tested by NADA. We will provide you with details about the athletes who have fled.
“If any of them give negative results, we will ban them in Delhi and recommend the Athletics Federation of India to do the same.”
Mehta also confirmed that some athletes at the competition did not show up to collect their medals, adding to doping suspicions.
NADA Director General Vimal Anand was not immediately available for comment.
Doping is a serious problem in India. In a report released in May by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), the country ranked second behind Russia in anti-doping rule violations.
Kumar, hailed on social media as an “honest athlete in a dirty sport”, was dismayed by the outcome of the competition.
“I was really looking forward to competing against the best athletes, but no one came,” he told the Indian Express newspaper. “Everyone was afraid to get tested. As an athlete, I feel very hurt and disappointed.”
The DAA said it decided to award Kumar a medal and certificate even though he was the only runner in the final.
“He competed with others in the heats and it is not his fault that the opponents disappeared before the final,” Mehta said. “We believe it would be wrong to deny him his medal and certificate and he will get them soon.”