Govt fires Ukrainian coach for putting athletes on steroids

The Sports Ministry has sacked a Ukrainian track and field coach and ordered a thorough investigation into an embarrassing doping scandal after eight athletes tested positive for banned anabolic steroids.

On Tuesday, Sports Minister Ajay Maken said he had asked the head of the ministry's Sports Authority of India (SAI) to submit a report within three days, explaining how the banned substances reached a training camp in the northern city of Patiala, where a majority of the athletes were based.

"The athletes have disgraced the whole nation and it's very disturbing for us," Maken told reporters at his office.

"Athletes will get their punishment in the form of suspensions, bans and losing their medals... but we can't let the coaches and any official involved in this episode get away scot-free," he said.

The ministry was forced to act after eight athletes failed drug tests within the space of a week, three of them from India's 2010 Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medal-winning women's 4x400m relay team.

"Some of the athletes are illiterate and semi-literate but without coming to their defence, we have to ensure that the guilty coaches and officials are not spared," Maken said.

The first coach to lose his job was Ukrainian Yuri Ogorodonik, who trained the women's relay team but was sacked on Tuesday, while the ministry was also looking into the roles of some Indian coaches and SAI officials.

"I had a chat with the chief of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and they are going to increase the frequency of sample collection," Maken said.

"They are also in touch with the customs authority to make sure athletes and coaches returning from abroad are not smuggling banned substances into the country.

Stricter vigils would be maintained on coaches and chemists near the training camps. We can't be lenient on anyone," Maken added.

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