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Who needs doping?

Eleven school students in the National School Games have tested positive for banned substances. Experts warn of serious long-term health complications due to doping.

education Updated: Feb 01, 2012 14:22 IST
Rahat Bano and Gauri Kohli

Last week’s revelation of 11 school children testing positive for banned substances during the National School Games in New Delhi set alarm bells ringing. This was the first time that India’s National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) conducted dope tests on school children at the national level (they had initiated it at the Kerala State School Athletics Championship recently). NADA decided to cover schools following doping-related complaints received from the media and parents, say officials.

Of the 81 samples collected, 11 tested positive for furosemide (diuretic), methylhexaneamine (stimulant), stanozolol (steroid), nandrolone (steroid), and THC (marijuana), all prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Possible harmful effects from these drugs range from trembling of hands (most common), infertility, liver and kidney dysfunction, tumour, prostate cancer, male pattern baldness in women, and heart-rhythm disorders to hallucination and impaired balance. “We got alarmed because it’s (doping) starting at 12-13 years onward. We immediately wrote to the school boards, like the CBSE, CISCE and state ones, urging them to include (some rules) in their agenda to give directions to schools,” says Rahul Bhatnagar, director general, NADA. “They could organise at least one lecture in two-three months to highlight the harmful effects of doping.”

Experts warn of serious health complications due to doping in the long run. “High doses over a long period can destroy your metabolism and impact your blood and bone health,” says Deepak Chaudhary, director, Sports Injury Centre, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi.

The main cause of such rampant doping is the lack of awareness among young sportspersons. Yuki Bhambri, a tennis champ, says: “I feel sorry for these children... I believe most of the time they take what is advised by their trainer or coach. Many of them (trainees) are clueless about the medical consequences.”

Bhambri says he doesn’t take antibiotics unless prescribed by the doctor and he prefers consulting his physio-therapist on the tour.

Some attempts have now been made to reach out to the players. NADA distributed about 500 copies of its doping control handbook titled Play Fair, available in English and Hindi, at the National School Games in New Delhi, where India’s first doping cases among children came to light. The handbook, first put out in 2009 and revised in 2011, is now being translated into Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam, informs V Jayaraman, senior project manager, NADA. The agency also gives out pamphlets in English, Hindi and Malayalam, the latter distributed at the Kerala State School Athletics Championship, “because that southern state produces many sportspersons”.

Bhambri says, “There have been many instances in tennis. So, I have read about them and our international association does always send us a circular – that is the only reason I know. There is a book published and given out at many tournaments but it just mentions chemical names and it is difficult to know if any of the medications, for example, a cough syrup, have any of those or not. But I don’t think any coach in India really knows which medications or substances are banned. They are not officially required to know and it would be great if they were asked to be informed on the subject.”

According to JS Naruka, national coordinator and accredited course director of the sports administrators’ programme of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Lausanne, only about 5% of the students will be aware of the dos and don’ts related to prohibited substances.

For the past six years, the IOC-accredited sports administrators’ programme has not been organised due to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Naruka says. About one-sixth of the 35-hour programme is devoted to doping. However, he adds, they have received communication from the IOC approving four of these courses to be held in India, starting September 2012.

Satpal, president, National School Games Federation, says that school students need to be made aware of the matter as this is the level at which the base of the country’s sporting talent is created. He adds that even coaches don’t have the requisite information about listed drugs, though he says that some might have it if it’s available on the NADA website. He says they are taking the doping issue “seriously”.

All for power
According to a NADA official, cases of doping are noticed most in power sports such as athletics (in which abuse is more likely for a 100-m race than 5000-m one), short put, weightlifting, javelin throw, hammer throw, wrestling, boxing, cycling and swimming. At the Delhi event, NADA collected samples from weightlifters, boxers and wrestlers only because the others were in team events, says an official. “We have to create awareness and instil fear”, about the consequences of doping, says V Jayaraman of NADA.

Penalty: First-time offence can lead to a two-year ban from participation in the sport; a second-time offence to a lifetime ban

The harm doping does

Some of the side effects of banned substances

Furosomide (diuretic):
Oedema in lower limbs, low BP, dizziness due to low BP, loss of electrolytes from the body, which causes tremors and cramps

Nandrolone/Stanozolol (steroids):
Greasy skin and acne, infertility hypertension, liver and kidney dysfunction, tumours

Stanozolol (steroid):
Trembling, restlessness, aggressive behaviour, anxiety, muscle cramps

Methylhexaneamine (Stimulant):
Loss of appetite, insomnia (loss of sleep), euphoria, hallucinations (psychosis),trembling, restlessness, agitation, tenseness, hypertension palpitation and heart-rhythm disorders, hyperthermia (increased body temperature)

THC (Marijuana):
Impaired balance and coordination,loss of concentration increase in heart rate,increased appetite,drowsiness, hallucinations (main ill-effect)