MAU president vows to unearth gems as Zolkples lets loose
SHAMEFUL is the state of local athletics as Malaysian Athletic Union (MAU) president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim continues to maintain a stoic silence over the storm of controversies raging around the sport.
As keen as Shahidan is to draw a line under the scandals of its own making, questions over doping and unethical praises will continue to haunt MAU until it comes clean.
Malaysian athletics sank to its lowest ebb when relay runner Yunus Lasaleh failed a dope test following the Indonesia Sea Games last November, prompting National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Zolkples Embong to describe athletics in the country as an embarrassment.
"In years past, athletics used to be a major gold medal contributor to the nation at the Sea Games and Asian Games. At the 1997 Jakarta Sea Games when the national contingent won 55 gold medals, athletics contributed 16, its the best haul ever.
"In Brunei two years later, they won 12 of the contingent's 57 gold medals. But athletics' percentage of the total haul since then has been declining as the six gold medals, maybe soon to be reduced to five, at the last Games was the worst (since 1975).
"In recent times, athletics has even struggled to form relay teams and we used to have strong relay teams in the past. We don't have middle and long distance runners since M. Ramachandran (retired) and soon when the seniors are no longer around, there will be a big void to fill. This is shameful," said Zolkples in his speech at the NSC-MAU coaching workshop launch in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
Yunus was part of the gold-medal winning 4x400m men's quartet who could soon lose their medals, thus reducing athletics' haul to five.
Shahidan listened attentively and the MAU president acknowledged Zolkples' critical remark, saying: "We accept what has happened but we must now ensure we rectify the situation as soon as possible.
"For a start, we are going to try to field an athlete in all 45 events of the (2013) Myanmar Sea Games. To do this, we need to discover talent and we have agreed to have talent scouts present at athletic meets in the country beginning with the Malaysian Universities Championships in Kangar at the end of this month."
Shahidan, however, bypassed questions on the fate of MAU deputy president Karim Ibrahim, who allegedly provided Yunus with banned substances and instructed former national coach Harun Rasheed to order six national sprinters to skip drug tests last May.
After taking one question over the issue before leaving abruptly, Shahidan said: "The doping and investigating committees will decide."
The Olympic Council of Malaysia is in the process of forming an inquiry panel into the positive dope tests of Yunus and weightlifter Firdaus Abdul Razak while MAU has also requested the OCM investigate the claims against Karim.
Shahidan also did not address why three of the six sprinters used another person's urine sample when submitting to a medical test prior to the May dope test nor why Harun told them to do so, as mentioned in a September 2011 disciplinary committee report leaked to the media recently.
Nor has a date been set for the MAU annual general meeting and elections due to be held under a new constitution giving all office bearers three-year terms and doing away with the present annual staggered elections.
"We are waiting for the auditors' report before the council meets to set a date," said Shahidan while MAU vice-president Datuk R. Annamalai added the audited accounts should be ready by the end of March.
Meanwhile, NSC and MAU announced that coaches A. Trapadi (middle and long distance), Ithnin Mahadi (hurdles), V. Subramaniam (walks), Mansahar Abdul Jalil (jumps) and Nazar Rahim (throws) will head their respective disciplines while K. Jayabalan is the acting head of the sprinters pending the appointment of a technical director.