Thousands of crores are being spent on the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but organisers are struggling to provide Indian athletes with even Rs 200 worth of essential dietary supplements each day. HT has learnt that athletes are getting supplements worth barely Rs 60 per day, less than one-sixth of what they need in order to be competitive at the international level.
The supplements, which are vital in preparing athletes for the Games, are not merely insufficient, but even what is provided is often so substandard that athletes are not using them.
In 2008 the sports ministry sanctioned funds that would allow for Rs 200 per day to be spent on each athlete's supplements, in addition to Rs 250 for food and Rs 100 for overhead expenses. However, athletes are getting supplements worth Rs60. What's more, they got nothing at all for the first 8 months of their preparation for the Games because the ministry placed the tender late.
This has forced athletes to spend between Rs 10000-20,000 per month, an expense many can ill afford, on supplements. The kind of supplement needed and the quantity varies based on the discipline, with boxers and weightlifters being the worst hit.
"I have been using my own supplements," Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh told HT.
"I rarely use supplements provided by our authorities. Sometimes I take the energy drink that we get," said Vijender, even as other athletes spoke of jars of protein supplements arriving unsealed. "The expenditure on food supplements depends on the weight category and the level of competition of a boxer and comes to around R 10,000 to 20,000."
Weightlifters have suffered similar difficulties, and in their case the problem has been solved by the Indian Weightlifting Federation providing supplements worth Rs 300, and claiming a subsidy of Rs 200 from the Sports Authority of India. The excess expense is borne by the IWF.
"To perform well at the international arena, a lifter requires a minimum supplement of Rs 400 per day," Sahdev Yadav, IWF secretary general said.
A senior Delhi-based SAI official, however, suggested that there was no shortcoming in the supplements being supplied.
"Whatever we are providing is according to recommendations of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad," he said.
"The sanctioned money for supplements also includes energy drinks and juices and all our Centre's players are getting this as per the santioned amount."