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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
India sacks weightlifting coaches
Pratima Kumari
Kumari was at her first Olympics
The Indian government has terminated the contracts of national weightlifting coaches Pal Singh Sandhu of India and Leonid Taranenko of Belarus.

It says that both have been implicated in a doping scandal after two Indian women weightlifters tested positive for drugs at the Olympic Games.

International Weightlifting authorities have already suspended Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu pending an inquiry.

The weightlifting pair tested positive in Athens for banned substances.

'Injections given'

"The government has terminated the contract of Leonid Taranenko, the foreign coach, and Pal Singh Sandhu with immediate effect," the sports ministry said on Tuesday.

"We have lost confidence in the two coaches in the wake of the doping incidents," a statement by the ministry said.

Chanu finished sixth in the Sydney Olympics

In an interview with the BBC, Sports Minister Sunil Dutt said it was the responsibility of the pair not only to coach the weightlifters but also to keep an eye on what medicines they were taking.

The minister has already initiated an inquiry into the charges levelled by Pratima Kumari against the coaches.

She blamed them for her failure to clear the drugs test, alleging that she had been given injections which could have contained banned substances.

Olympic first

Kumari tested positive before the beginning of the Games, while 27-year-old Chanu failed a test after her event in the 53 kilogram category, where she finished fourth.

Chanu is a former Asian champion and has been suspended for testing positive in the past.

The two sacked coaches had been training the four-member Indian squad in Minsk in the run-up to the Olympics.

A BBC correspondent in Delhi says that failing a dope test in international events is not new for some Indian weightlifters, although this is the first time that they have failed a drugs test in the Olympics.

Our correspondent says the controversy is certain to reopen a debate in India about whether its weightlifters should use foreign coaches.

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