After decade long struggle, TN athlete Santhi Soundarajan given permanent post of athletic coach

She was stripped of all her medals and achievements for failing a gender test in 2006.
After decade long struggle, TN athlete Santhi Soundarajan given permanent post of athletic coach
After decade long struggle, TN athlete Santhi Soundarajan given permanent post of athletic coach
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After a decade-long struggle, a part of athlete Santhi Soundarajan's sporting glory has been restored, easing her fall from glory after she failed a gender test and descended into hardship.

Santhi, who has won medals at several international track and field events, has been appointed as an athletic trainer in a permanent capacity with the state Sports Development Authority. Her salary would be Rs. 30,000 and other benefits.

Speaking to BBC Tamil, Santhi thanked Jayalalithaa for making possible for her to get a permanent job. “I couldn’t even go out freely in the society. I hope this decision will put an end to all this,” she said.

Santi’s friend and advocate at the Madras High Court told The News Minute, “She got many offers from private institutes which paid well. Santhi did not take them up because her aim is to cater to the poorer sections of society.”

Santhi plans to file a petition in the Madras High Court asking the central government to get her 2006 silver medal at Asian Games restored through the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  

In 2006, Santhi was stripped of the silver medal she won at the Doha Asian Games because she failed a gender test. She was diagnosed with hyperandrogenism, which is characterized by circulation of excessive testosterone in the female body.

Banned from participating in athletics events, and all her achievements struck off the record, Santhi fell into despair and even tried to kill herself.

Sports Minister 'Ma Foi' Pandiarajan K told Deccan Chronicle that the move was a bid to "restore dignity" of a Tamil sportswoman. He also said he was looking to get in touch with Indian Olympic Association and Sports Authority of India to take up her case at the Court of Arbitration: a step forward for her to reclaim her medals.

“She doesn't know to speak any language other than Tamil. This has happened to her because she did not understand certain things. So we want this to be changed and for her medal to be returned through the IOA,” Pandiarajan told BBC Tamil.

Later however, she was employed on a contractual basis as a coach by the Tamil Nadu government. She resigned in 2010 when the measly salary of Rs 5,000 barely covered her expenses.

For some time, Santhi worked in a brick kiln where her parents also worked. In a 2012 interview to V Narayan Swamy for TOI, Santhi recounted her ordeal and how she was unable to use her hands when she started work at the brick kiln, for they were always tender and swollen.

A few months ago an online debate and discussion platform had even started a petition called ‘Justice for Shanthi’, which shed light on her struggle once again.

Santhi also expressed gratitude to Pandiarajan on Twitter.  

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