Sacked in 2011, athletics coach Ogorodnik could be back soon

Shown the door after six of his wards tested positive for banned substances, Ukranian may guide quarter-milers for Rio Games. Three-and-a-half years after he was sacked following the doping scandal of 2011, Ukrainian track and field coach Yuri Ogorodnik would well be back on these shores. It remains to be seen if the Union sports ministry accepts the recommendation of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

Ogorodnik’s probable return has got to do with the AFI’s plan to help prepare Indian athletes for the Rio Olympics in 2016. dna has learnt that a senior AFI official has managed to coax the Ukrainian into coming back to the country. Ogorodnik was understandably upset when the UPA government fired him after eight athletes tested positive for banned substances.

“We are planning to request the SAI to bring Ogorodnik back to prepare our quarter-milers for the 2016 Olympics,” a senior AFI official said on condition of anonymity. “The way he left the country in 2011 was sad. But we all know that our quarter-milers (400 metres and 4×400 metres relay) were doing exceptionally well under his guidance,” added the official.

A few days after the likes of Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur, members of the victorious 4×400 metres relay team in New Delhi (2010 Commonwealth Games) and Guangzhou (2010 Asian Games), failed their dope tests, then-sports minister Ajay Maken sacked Ogorodnik. Of the eight athletes who failed dope tests, six were training under Ogorodnik for nearly two years. However, an inquiry commission ruled that Ogorodnik wasn’t directly involved.

“Without Ogorodnik, India would not have been able to win those gold medals,” a senior AFI official said, adding: “Several top athletes, including Kaur and Akkunji, requested the AFI to bring back Ogorodnik for the Rio Games. That’s when we got in touch with him. Their demand is completely justified. After all, Ogorodnik is an outstanding coach.”

Seven of the eight athletes had tested positive for methandienone or methandrostenolone on June 27, 2011, at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala. Apart from relay runners Akkunji, Kaur, Priyanka Panwar and Sini Jose, sprinters Tiana Mary Thomas and Jauna Murmu, shot-putter Sonia Kumari and long-jumper Hari Krishnan also failed dope tests.

The AFI has already shortlisted 20 quarter-milers for the Rio Games. And Ogorodnik has been asked to bring in another specialised coach. dna has learnt that two Indian coaches, RS Sidhu and Renu Kohli, may be asked to join Ogorodnik’s team.