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Even criminals are not treated like I was: Ashwini Akkunji
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MUMBAI, July 21(Agencies): After qualifying for World Championships, athlete recounts her struggle during two-year ban for doping.

When you lose something you love and then get it back, it is a different feeling altogether. Ask athlete Ashwini Akkunji.

Having lost two precious years due to ban over doping allegations, the 25-year-old returned to the sport she loves. On Friday, the double Asian Games gold-medallist booked herself a berth in the Indian women’s 4x400m relay squad for next month’s World Championships in Moscow. She finished joint second in the trials at Patiala.

While talking about her return to the competitive sport and qualifying for the World Championships, Ashwini is unable to hide her happiness and is delighted to open up about how it feels to be back on the track.

“I am competing after a long time and still there are more races to go. My timing and pace was OK. I want to improve on them. However, it is a nice feeling to return to a sport that I love the most and I am eager to deliver in the opportunity that I have got,” she told dna.

In 2011, Akkunji failed a dope test along with five other athletes Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose, Mary Tiana Thomas, Priyanka Pawar and Juana Murmu after testing positive for steroids. That was followed by two year ban from the sport.

Not afraid to go down the memory lane, Ashwini reveals it was a tough period. “It was difficult and more so if you are a girl. People did not look at you with respect. It was depressing. At times, it was so bad even criminals are not treated like that.

“Nobody else but it was only us who lost. Our medal and respect. The worst was the first year when we had to go for court proceedings and it was mentally taxing. I would do only one session and light training then to remain fit,” she said.

“However, I remained positive. My family, especially my father, relatives and friends kept me motivated. They made me believe that I could return to the field and do well again,” she added.

Ashwini said there was a time they struggled to adjust to the life in the society. “Before the ban, we had lived in hostels. Our life was there only. We practised, trained and then returned to our rooms. But once we were out, we didn’t know what to do. We had not lived in the society the way others have. We struggled,” said Ashwini.

There was a time that she struggled to find partners to practice with. “Once you are out, you don’t get the facilities to practice. Let alone the facilities, I struggled to find partners to practice with. I would practice in Delhi’s Lodhi Park with common people who would come and ask me, ‘Are you the same Ashwini?’ And I would say yes. But I have learnt a lot from the two-year period,” she added.

Although she has lost out on time, she has set some goals for herself. “I just want to do well in 4x400 relay and get the best timing. That is my first target. Then gradually, I would like to focus on getting back to hurdles, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and then the Olympics,” she said.

News Updated at : Sunday, July 21, 2013
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