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Virat, Mirabai picked for Khel Ratna 

New Delhi, September 17

Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, the reigning world champion in the 48kg category, and Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli have been recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. Mirabai was the number one pick for the award while Kohli was the second choice of the awards committee members. 

The 12-member awards committee, which was headed by Justice (Retd) Indermeet Kaur Kocchar, met here on Monday and finalised the list, which will be sent to the Sports Ministry for a final approval. After approval, President Ram Nath Kovind will present the awards in a ceremony on September 25.

Champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, tennis veteran Rohan Bopanna and table tennis star Manika Batra are among the 21 athletes whose names have been recommended for the Arjuna Awards this year.

The 21st name for the Arjuna Award is that of Sanjita Chanu, who will be rewarded subject to her clearing the dope violation hearing that is currently on against her. Sanjita, who is currently on a provisional suspension after failing a dope test during the 2017 World Championships, had approached the courts after she was ignored by the committee for the Arjuna Awards. Ruling on her petition, Justice Vibhu Bakhru wrote: “…In the event, if the selection committee is of the view that the petitioner is entitled to Arjuna Award 2018, the decision shall be kept in a sealed cover and her name shall be disclosed only if the petitioner is absolved of the charge of doping, which this court is informed is likely to take about an year.”

It is understood that Sanjita’s name was to be the 20th, but some the selection committee members requested that she should be the 21st nominee, so that the committee wouldn’t be blamed for denying the award to someone more worthy.

Amit, Seema not lucky

While Sanjita has got the benefit of the doubt for now, two others failed to get the nod because of prior doping offences.

Amit Panghal, who defeated reigning Olympics champion Hasanboy Dusmatov of Uzbekistan in the 49kg category to win the Asian Games gold medal in Jakarta, had  tested positive for a steroid in 2012, for which he served a ban of one year.

Discus thrower Seema Punia won medals at both Commonwealth and Asian Games this year but was not picked up for the Arjuna Award. She had tested positive for the stimulant pseudoephedrine during the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago and her medal was withdrawn.

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