Former world long-jump champion Mike Powell called on Monday for drug cheats to face life bans, as he visited India days after a doping scandal rocked the country.
“I think if you are using drugs, you should be banned for life,” the 47-year-old American was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
Powell, who broke compatriot Bob Beamon’s 23-year long-jump world record at the 1991 world championships in Tokyo, is currently in Mumbai as the brand ambassador of the IAAF, the sport’s world governing body.
Six Indians failed dope tests last week, including Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose, and two more on Monday, including Ashwini Akkunji.
The trio were part of the women’s 4x400m relay team that won gold medals in 2010 at the Delhi Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
“Ashwini Akkunji and Priyanka Panwar have tested positive for anabolic steroid methandienone,” Athletics Federation of India director Manohar Lal Dogra told reporters. “They have been provisionally suspended.”
Asian Games double-gold medallist Akkunji and sprinter Panwar tested positive during a camp in the northern Indian city of Patiala on June 27.
Two other athletes failed tests during the same Patiala camp and their results were announced last Thursday.
“It shows we are taking this seriously,” said Powell.
“As of now, if you try to use something now, you are taking a big, big risk. Athletics is at the forefront of any sport in the world as far as taking control to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs. It’s a necessary evil.”
India have never won a track medal at the Olympics and just missed out in Los Angeles in 1984, when P.T. Usha narrowly failed to take a bronze in the women’s 400m hurdles.
Milkha Singh was also edged into fourth in a photo-finish in the men’s 400m in the 1960 Rome Games.
Doping has afflicted Indian sport over the last decade, with weightlifters the chief culprits.