first_img370 documented positive dope tests in the past 13 yearsIn the West, champions are being sent tumbling to their knees. An anti-doping investigation in the US has gone after some of track and field’s big names. Kelli White, women’s 100 m world champion, is banned while men’s champ Tim Mont,370 documented positive dope tests in the past 13 yearsIn the West, champions are being sent tumbling to their knees. An anti-doping investigation in the US has gone after some of track and field’s big names. Kelli White, women’s 100 m world champion, is banned while men’s champ Tim Mont gomery is under a cloud. Marion Jones, triple gold medallist and poster girl from Sydney 2000, may not race in Athens. What does this have to do with India? Neither does it have champion sprinters nor is it a sporting power whose success attracts suspicion. In the grim history of doping, though, India can easily be considered a rogue nation with 370 documented positive dope tests in the past 13 years. Since 2000, India has produced 113 positives. The evidence has piled up and the numbers are too large to ignore.In December 2000, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) submitted an affidavit to the Delhi High Court which contained the names of 257 athletes who had tested positive in 3,078 dope tests between 1991 and 2000.Sunita Rani’s was the most high-profile doping case Rani’s was the most high-profileIn June 2001 syringes and strips of steroids were found in the hostels of the National Institute of Sport (NIS). In 2002 weightlifter Kunjarani Devi tested positive at the Asian Championships and two Indian lifters tested positive at the Commonwealth Games.Two months later, athlete Sunita Rani tested positive after winning two medals at the Busan Asian Games. In 2003 after a total of 64 positive tests from two National Games (Punjab and Hyderabad), then sports minister Vikram Verma revealed in Parliament that 108 athletes had tested positive in national events and five in competitions overseas in four years.If nothing else, this would indicate the existence of a problem, of a phenomenon that thrives behind the smokescreen of “everybody does it” and the puerile fig leaf of guarding national prestige. As it stands today, India’s anti-doping policy, from its ethos to its practice, seems to be neither anti-doping nor much of a policy.To begin at the top, India is yet to sign the Copenhagen Declaration, a globally accepted document that recognises the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) code. India is one of only four countries that attended a 126-nation conference and agreed to sign the declaration. But it is yet to do so.Sunaina’s is the most recent positive dope testM.K. Mishra, SAI executive-director (Finance), insists,”We will sign soon, there are procedural formalities.” Not only has the global letter of the law been a hurdle for the Indian sports administration, but the country’s primary anti-doping institution also exists in a twilight zone. The status of the SAI’s Dope Control Centre (DCC) in Delhi has now become a convenient liability. The laboratory, set up in 1989, hasn’t yet been given accreditation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) or WADA. Any positive test result from it can always be contested in court. It is the easiest escape route for any athlete, federation and administrator. The lack of an accredited laboratory is most frequently cited as the reason for India’s ineffective anti-doping programme.”This is a bad excuse,” says David Howman, WADA’S director-general. “Proper anti-doping programmes can be run efficiently even when a country doesn’t have a WADA-accredited laboratory.” There are only 31 WADA accredited laboratories worldwide.Mishra, who is also the CEO of the DCC, is confident that the day the Delhi lab is accredited the complaining will stop. Now that India has won the right to stage the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the ISO 17025 certification needed for accreditation is finally being sought. Dope-testing in India takes place on two main occasions. Before athletes go for any overseas event, samples are taken from athletes and transported to Delhi for testing. Participants are also tested at major national and international events in India. The first practice is controversial amounting, says one SAI official, to pre-event”screening”. The cheating gameadvertisementIndia recorded 370 positive dope tests in the past 13 years in both national and international events.Since 2000, 113 Indian sportspeople have tested positive for dope.After 15 years of its existence, the country’s only dope testing centre has just applied for accreditation.Allegations of rampant, organised doping at the NIS, Patiala, continue to be swept under the carpet.Athletes are not being tested to catch and punish those on dope but being systematically weeded outand dropped from the team to prevent them from being caught overseas. The cases of athlete Sunita Rani and lifter Sunaina (the most recent case of an Indian testing positive for dope) indicate that the laboratory’s standards are far from watertight as both had tested negative in India.In late 2002, experts from the SRL Ranbaxy Laboratory, Mumbai, were roped in to study Rani’s case. Their analysis of testing procedures in Korea helped exonerate Rani and got the Seoul lab stripped of its ISO/IEC 17025 certificate and IOC accreditation. Once the case was decided, SRL Ranbaxy sent out feelers to the government and the SAI for four months, offering to set up and run a modern laboratory. They also met former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu to set up a laboratory in Hyderabad. The response was uniformly cool. Mishra’s own comment is telling.”The DCC is not a commercial proposition. Everyone thinks they can start a laboratory.” Sumedha Sahani, director, operations and clinical trials, SRL Ranbaxy, says, “There is much merit in public-private partnerships, they must be developed.”Along with the responses at the top, the rumblings of a sustained doping programme in Indian sport continue with frequent revelations from the NIS, Patiala. Says one SAI official:”What they do in the West is systematic damage.We go in for random destruction.” A 2003 report into the functioning of the NIS by former SAI officer K. Narasimhan lies buried in the Union Sports Ministry. The report is believed to contain proof of sustained irregularities in anti-doping procedures and a nexus between the NIS authorities, federation coaches and SAI officers in Delhi. The report even recommended an inquiry by India’s professional probe agencies. Even though the inquiry was ordered by former SAI director-general Shekhar Dutt, strangely no one in either the ministry or the SAI gives the report any credence. The Sports Ministry appointed a one-man inquiry committee headed by H.S. Kingra.According to Joint Secretary R.K. Mishra,”Kingra found no evidence of allegations of doping.” Manmohan Singh, head of the IOA’s medical commission, believes the over the-counter availability of drugs in India is a spur for doping.”In most cases the competitors are more educated than doctors and coaches. There is a general tendency among sportspeople to cheat to get medals.” They may”get away” at home but in the absence of a strong anti-doping policy, continue to be”outed” overseas. India’s day of infamy in world sport could be lurking around the corner.advertisementlast_img read more