India makes banned athletes eligible for Olympics

Akkunji, Jose, Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas _ deserved leniency as they did not take banned steroids intentionally.

NEW DELHI  _ An Indian anti-doping panel has changed the start dates of one-year bans on four women 400-meter runners, making them eligible for the London Olympics.

Ashwini Akkunji and Sini Jose, members of relay quartets that won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, were among six athletes banned from the time of their provisional suspensions last July.

However, the panel ruled that four of them _ Akkunji, Jose, Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas _ deserved leniency as they did not take banned steroids intentionally.

Since the bans have to be for at least one year owing to World Anti-Doping Agency rules, the start date was changed to when the urine samples were collected last June. The deadline for sending Olympic entries is July 3.

The four athletes have appealed against the bans to the Indian anti-doping agency, blaming a coach who allegedly gave them food supplements, but WADA has demanded their bans be enhanced to two years as it felt they should be held responsible for the presence of banned substances in their bodies.

The other two 400-meter runners who were also banned were Mandeep Kaur and Jauna Murmu.

All of them tested positive for one or more of three banned steroids: Methandienone, epimethandiol and stanozolol.

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