BENGALURU: “IT feels like my vanvaas (exile) has ended,” were the words of Akash Chikte. The goalkeeper played his first competitive match after serving a 13-month doping ban representing Army XI in the Bangalore Cup on Sunday. The period was like hell according to the 27-year old, whose mum and dad were in tears as people would say, ‘your boy takes drugs’.
A member of the Indian team until the Hockey World League Final held in December, 2017, Chikte endured a tough time. When he went for training, people questioned him why he was at the ground. Every day was a challenge.
“Nobody called or contacted me. Suddenly, everybody forgot me. I made a programme for myself — a weekly training programme, a diet chart. I started training in the night because I couldn’t sleep. I used to cry. So I thought it was better to practice from 12-2 am. There is a state government academy and I used to take a few guys along and practise there at night,” Chikte said.
The ban was originally for two years, but later reduced to 13 months after the National Anti-Doping Agency concluded that he had not taken the prohibited substance intentionally. Chikte was given a painkiller injection in his hometown Yavatmal in Maharashtra, which contained the prohibited substance, leading to the ban.
“My little toe was struck by a ball and got swollen. I was supposed to go to a hospital in Pune. Dad suddenly fell ill and it became an emergency. He had to be moved to a hospital. A doctor gave me the painkiller injection, a high dose. I told him I am a professional sportsman.
“He’s an MBBS, so I thought he’d know what to give and what not,” said Chikte, who enjoyed a clean sheet on Sunday against Indian Air Force at the Field Marshal KM Kariappa Hockey Stadium. But life has now started afresh for the goalkeeper, who wants to get back to the Indian team. It was unfortunate that the ban came when he was enjoying a high in his career. He will now have to compete against the likes of PR Sreejesh, Suraj Karkera and Krishan B Pathak for a place in the national team. For that to happen, he needs to feature regularly in domestic competitions. His performance on Sunday gave enough evidence that he has not lost his reflexes and confidence.
“My first target was to clear the stain. I did that. My second target was to maintain my fitness. I did that and now I’m playing. My third target is to get back to the camp (team). I will play domestic tournaments and will also play in the nationals in January,” concluded Chikte.