Commonwealth Games: Doping past a heavy burden for India weightlifters

Richard Dryden can accept the ceiling of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium wasn't built to weight-bearing specifications; he can live with the dangers posed by terrorism and dengue-fever carrying mosquitoes in New Delhi.

But Dryden, one of three New Zealand weightlifting coaches attending the Commonwealth Games, still has concerns about India's drug-tainted history in his sport.

Dryden brushed off reports of a section of the venue's ceiling caving in last week, although other bulletins out of India have him sceptical about New Zealand's seven-strong team competing on a level platform.

A month ago the Times of India newspaper reported the Indian Weightlifting Federation was worried about missing out on up to 14 medals if they failed to stump up a $500,000 fine imposed after six of its lifters were guilty of doping offences last year.

The federation had to beg the Government and the Indian Olympic Association to make up the shortfall, hardly a good look in Dryden's eyes.

"To be perfectly frank they're bloody lucky to still be in the sport, let alone at the Commonwealth Games," he said.

"They're a dominant force in the Commonwealth but they have their ongoing issues with positive drugs tests.

"They pay their fines and the athletes do their time but they've got the numbers to pull together another team."

India faced bans in 2004 and 2006 and in the latest indiscretion Sanamacha Chanu, who tested positive at the 2004 Athens Olympics, faces a life ban after two failed tests in August.

The 31-year-old, currently ranked fifth in the women's under-53kg class, was one of 11 Indian athletes found with traces of the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.

While those failed tests underscored Dryden's concerns, New Zealand's leading medal contender Richie Patterson was more conciliatory.

"With drug testing it's not so much the one you may catch, it's deterring maybe four or five hundred," Patterson said.

"Everyone says it's bad weightlifters are getting caught. It's a good thing they're getting caught and it's providing a deterrent," said Patterson, who is in the best shape of his career leading into the 85kg division's podium battle.

While Patterson's build-up has gone like clockwork in Finland's Arctic Circle, fellow Beijing Olympian Mark Spooner's preparations in Christchurch have not been as smooth.

Spooner injured a quadriceps muscle last November and by February a 3cm tear was 9cm. "This year has been 50 per cent rehab and 50 per cent build-up for Mark," Dryden said.

Spooner got through the South Island championships to prove he still warranted selection, lifting at about 80 per cent. He hasn't recorded a lift on the current Commonwealth rankings but Dryden figured he was in the top four or five in his division.

Commonwealth Games debutant Stanislav Chalaev, 24, is ranked third the 105kg class, his combined snatch and clean and jerk tally of 331kg in May has him among a cluster of eight men separated by just 6kg. Samoan Niusila Opeloge leads the class with 354kg.

"Stas is a definite (medal) chance, he's come up rapidly in the last four of five months," Dryden said.

Russian-born Chalaev moved to New Zealand when he was 11 and has had to cope with the death of his mother Larissa last year.

Realistically, fellow debutants Cameron Sinclair (62kg) and 19-year-old Lou Guinares (52kg) are being groomed for the Glasgow Games in 2014 and beyond.

Kate Howard is the experienced member of the women's duo. This is her third Gamesbut the first for New Zealand. Howard, who represented Wales at Manchester and Melbourne, met the requirements for the under-53kg class with her last clean and jerk attempt before the deadline expired.

She has cracked the mark twice since but is likely to be a victim of the imposing Canadian women's team, including Marilou Dozois-Prevost, who has a best combined total of 187kg in 2010 compared to Howard's 154kg.

Tracey Lambrechs makes her Games debut in the super-heavyweight class and is ranked in the top six.

- NZPA

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