Indian track queen PT Usha has opted out of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme panel. The ‘Payyaoli Express’ is the second person to quit the panel comprising elite athletes.
Usha has stepped down from the post citing “conflict of interest”. Earlier, Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra had opted out of the high profile observers’ body on similar grounds. Bindra was a national observer for shooting and the chairman of the TOPs identification committee, which also included India’s first All-England Badminton champion, veteran Prakash Padukone, Usha and Olympian weightlifter Karnam Malleswari.
Usha has resigned from the honorary post has her position may result in a conflict of interest with her position in the Usha School of Athletics. The former international runner has confirmed to the Times of India that she had quit the TOPS panel in the last week of December.
Two of India’s leading women sprinters – Tintu Luka and Jishna Mathew, who train at Usha’s academy in Kerala are regulars in the Indian athletics contingent at the international meets. It’s learnt that 16 other promising track and field athletes, who are knocking on the doors of India selection, also train at her academy, ToI has reported quoting an anonymous official from the Ministry of Sports.
The sports ministry only last week had sanctioned ₹ 3.14 crore for out of payment allowance payment to the athletes under TOPS. Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has sanctioned ₹ 50,000 monthly allowance for the TOPS athletes to meet out of pocket expenses on their training.
The TOP Scheme aims to identify, groom and prepare potential medal prospects for Olympic and Paralympic Games. The selected athletes are provided financial assistance for their customised training at institutes having world-class facilities and for other necessary support.
The committee, comprising Padukone, Usha, Bindra, and Malleswari, was formed to identify the top talent for privileged training for the Asian and Commonwealth Games this year and the 2020 Olympic Games.
Padukone and Malleswari are the only two members left in the committee, after Bindra and Usha have tendered their resignation to avoid a conflict of interest.