In an earlier article, I had written why it is hard to believe the claims of Indian long-distance runner OP Jaisha about the water problem during her Rio Olympics marathon event.
I had explained Rule 240 of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) which clearly lays down the conditions under which a marathon shall be conducted.
IAAF mandates that water and refreshment stations shall be provided at intervals of approximately 5 km (or shorter, subject to weather conditions) for all long-distance runs, including the marathon. Jaisha had claimed the Games committee provided water only at an interval of 8 km.
I wrote to IAAF to get clarity on the Rio event. In my first email, I asked them the details of the kilometre points at which water was provided during the women’s marathon.
Imre Matrahazi, technical manager, IAAF competitions department in Monaco, wrote to me that water stations were available at 2.5 km, 7.5 km, 12.5 km, 17.5 km, 22.5 km, 27.5 km, 32.5 km, 37.5 km, 40 km, and at the start and finish points. That is, they provided water at 11 stations although the rule mandates only 10.
Matrahazi further informed me that these stations also served as personal refreshment points for all athletes who asked for them. Six such personal refreshment points were allowed during the course, two on each lap of the 10 km loop. The athletes had to run around the 10 km Flamengo Park loop thrice to cover 30 km of the race.
To my second email asking whether the above mentioned stations provided water for “all” athletes, or only the athletes who requested for personal drinks, Matrahazi replied these stations served water for “all” runners.
I wrote a third email asking a pointed question, which as Indians we should be interested in - was water served to all runners at these 11 kilometre points even if they were not represented by individual officials/volunteers.
To this question, Matrahazi replied that the Local Games Committee (LOC) volunteers ensured availability of adequate water and sponges at all these stations.
The accuracy of this information suggests that - I am sorry to be saying this - Jaisha was lying about the water problem during the marathon.
Since she or her coach Nikolai Snesarev had not requested for personal drinks, the Indian officials were not present there. But that does not mean Jaisha would not have received water.
There were officials to provide her water at 11 points at intervals of 2.5 km or 5 km, contrary to her claim that there were only four stations at intervals of 8 km.
I contacted IAAF because of my keen interest in sports. I don't want to target an athlete or the officials. Like many others, I also believe that sports administration in India is generally marred by corruption and lobbying.
The sport must be the eventual winner, not the athletes, officials, or the facilitators. And therefore, nobody should be allowed to impair the sport.