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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 107

Doping in Sport World

By Atul Cowshis - Syndicate Features


The Czars of Indian sport are a worried lot these days because of the tardy progress in the preparations for the Commonwealth Games due to be held in Delhi in 2010. While they may still pull it off and eventually win appreciation for successfully conducting one the biggest (number-wise) sport events in the world, there is one thing that also demands a good deal of their attention: how to ensure that the games are ‘clean’, or at least the widespread scourge of doping does not touch the participating Indian athletes.

It is by no means an easy task. Just consider that it took almost a decade to nab American athlete Marion Jones whose crying face seeking forgiveness for using illegal performance-enhancing drugs at the Sydney Olympics was splashed recently in newspapers across the globe. She had become a cult figure, hailed as one of the greatest woman athletes after she had won five medals at Sydney—three of them gold. But Jones was not the first ‘great’ athlete to be disgraced; sadly the list of the hall of infamy will not stop growing.

Barring a Milkha Singh here or a PT Usha there Indian athletes have generally not been known for sterling performances at international meets. Perhaps because of their low profile it was assumed that they are by and large free of the disease of drug affliction. A more likely reason is the silence preferred by the sport bosses in India to keep dope scandals under wraps. But doping has actually existed for a long time among sports persons in the world. And India is no exception. The practice of injecting drugs for medal-winning performance has existed among sprinters, swimmers, boxers, wrestlers, weightlifters, swimmers, footballers etc.

In recent years a number of Indian athletes have tested positive for banned substances allegedly used by them for better performance. That some of them later managed to get a reprieve on account of some technical or procedural flaws in their doping tests does not mean that Indian officials can afford to be smug about doping among athletes and other sports persons. Getting caught for doping brings a bad name to the country, the sport organisation and the sports person concerned whose short-lived moment of personal glorification gives way to a bleak future.

There is an opinion that it is unfair to single out sports persons for using steroids, hormones and many banned drugs when their use extends to people in many other fields. It may not be so open, but the problem exists across a spectrum of the society. But it is also true that it is the sports persons who are seen as a country’s ambassadors and figures of public adulation and their indiscretion becomes a matter of national concern as against the aberrations of say, a bank clerk or a young executive. It may, however, be added here that it is not always easy to prove the doping charges conclusively.

In a country like India, it is more true. The infrastructure for testing the samples (urine) of suspected athletes is poor in India. There is a shortage of kits and there have been allegations of samples being tempered with. All that puts a question mark on the credibility of the tests.

Many Indian athletes who tested positive have made the startling disclosure that the contraband stuff was given to them—rather, sold to them—by their coach, often foreign. Drugs have changed hands at even camps conducted by sport bodies, and reputed sport institutes. It is said that a ‘doping chart’ also exists. Clearly, the need is to hand over the matter of drugs transaction in the world of sport to the police, instead of leaving the matter only with a sport organisation or officials. It is more urgent to bust the racket of supply line of drugs into the world of sport than standing on some false prestige.

The sports federations in India have no clear doping policy. Little effort is made to make the sports persons fully educated about what is right and wrong in dealing with ‘drugs’ that come usually in the shape of ‘medicines’ administered for recovery from an injury or some such thing. An athlete may not know that the reason for his jaundice is not contaminated water but one of those performance-enhancing drugs administered to him or her.

It sounds almost bizarre but it exposes the inadequacies of dealing with the problem of doping in Indian sport. It has been reported in the media in the past that sport officials have resorted to ‘face reading’ to determine if a particular athlete has taken a prohibited drug. According to these officials, the athlete with an intake of banned substances behaves like an alcoholic! If it were really true, where was the need for all that expensive paraphernalia for conducting doping tests? It might have also made it virtually impossible for an athlete on drugs to fool the administrators at any sport meet.

The doping methods are generally a step ahead of the methods of detection and tests. It may become even more difficult if and when ‘gene doping’ with ‘designer drugs’ becomes prevalent to raise a crop of what may be called genetically modified athletes who will perform incredible feats to establish astounding records. Some fear is expressed that while ‘gene doping’ may be absent from the 2008 Olympics in China it may have become more common by the time of the 2012 Olympics.

Those who take banned drugs are perhaps aware that it can lead to health complications. But the risk is considered worth taking because the top performers at an international meet are certain to collect huge rewards in cash and kind that will assure them a rich and luxurious life. There is also the pressure of doing well for the country, while some are undoubtedly driven by the idea of personal glory and recognition that comes from winning a medal at a prestigious international event. The days of the amateur sports have long gone.

If sport administrators are not abler to control the menace of drugs why is there a hesitation in involving the law enforcing agencies? After all, it is the law enforcing agencies which can, at least in theory, smash a gang of drug traffickers in the sport world. Provided, of course, the sport authorities lend their full cooperation. The game of shielding the favourites cannot be played by any sports organisation, be it Indian or that of any other country.

- Syndicate Features -

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