India lifter claims innocence on doping charge

Aug. 06, 2008, 4:41 a.m. (ET)

NEW DELHI(AP) India weightlifter Monika Devi proclaimed her innocence on doping charges Wednesday, saying she had been framed by officials who were upset she was selected ahead of their preferred lifters for the Olympics.

Devi, India's lone entry in Olympic weightlifting, was prevented from boarding her flight to Beijing on Tuesday.

``I'm innocent. I've always stayed away from illegal substances and that's why I was picked in the selection trials,'' Devi said Wednesday.

``Shoot me if I'm guilty. Everyone knows there are stringent tests in international competitions and no sensible athlete would resort to doping.''

Devi was selected for Beijing after the federal sports ministry insisted she get the place because of her then clean record. Devi believed those who were upset by her Olympic selection ahead of other candidates were behind Tuesday's positive doping result.

``I am being framed by officials who wanted to send another weightlifter,'' Devi said.

The Press Trust of India reported Tuesday that Devi tested positive for an anabolic substance in a test conducted by the Sports Authority of India on June 29. It quoted unnamed officials as saying the report showing the positive result came just hours before Devi was to board her flight to Beijing.

India's Olympic contingent head Baljit Singh Sethi confirmed Wednesday that Devi's entry had been withdrawn.

``I can confirm that Monika will not be taking part in the games,'' PTI quoted Sethi as saying from Beijing, where the Olympics will open Thursday.

``We are actually relieved it happened before she reached Beijing,'' Sethi said.

Devi's failed doping test is the fourth by an Indian weightlifter since May.

Junior male weightlifter Harpreet Singh testing positive for the banned steroid nandrolone last month, while Kavita Devi and Paritosh Upadhyay failed doping tests in May.

Kavita Devi was sent back from the Asian women's championship in Japan after the Weightlifting Federation of India was informed of her positive doping test result by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which had collected an out-of-competition sample.

Upadhyay tested positive in an out-of-competition test conducted by the Sports Authority of India, which also caught Singh during his training program.

Repeated doping violations by Indian weightlifters have caused India to twice be banned from international competition since the 2004 Olympics in Athens.