Infrastructure development in Delhi at present is centred around the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Speculation is on about whether the projects would meet their deadlines or not. Amid all this, one thing that has gone unnoticed is the facility and the competence to conduct dope tests in India.
With a little more than a year to go for the Games, India is still not ready with the technology to test the presence of several performance enhancing drugs.
The Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry is yet to give a green signal to its National Drugs Testing Agency (NDTA) to acquire the technology to detect erythropoietin — a haemoglobin-enhancing drug. The technology is available in many countries.
The agency also does not have the facility to test human growth hormones.
The scientists working for the agency have 12 months to get the methods into the scope of accreditation. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) deadline is December 2009.
“We have WADA accreditation till December 2009, but not for these methods. The deadline applies to all testing centres within WADA’s purview,” said Dr Alka Beotra, deputy director, NDTA.
“It is a continuous process as the WADA keeps including new names to the list of prohibited drugs and one has to develop competency for the same. The only challenge would be to progress from testing the existing 1500 samples to 5000 samples per year,” said I. Shriniwas, joint secretary (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports).
“It is a gradual process and we hope to acquire methods soon. But if the national agency fails to achieve the required methods within the time frame, the only option left would be to sub-contract it to foreign centres, which is a little expensive,” said Rahul Bhatnagar, joint secretary, international sports division and director National Anti-Doping Agency.
The estimated cost of testing a sample in any of the South Asian countries is about $300 (Rs 15,000). In Tokyo labs, the costs could spiral to about $500. If tested in India, the cost would come down to less than one-third.
Lalit Bhanot, the organising secretary of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, is positive about achieving the targets on time. “We did all the urine sample testing in India at the time of the Youth Commonwealth Games held in October this year. I think we are prepared.”
But the ground reality is, besides acquiring testing equipment; the agency needs trained staff. So far, the agency has 20 trained officers, but for the Games they will need to expand the manpower base to at least 50.
In January, Shriniwas had said the hiring process would be complete by March 2008, but the NDTA is still looking for trained scientists.
“There is a shortage of trained officers, but we have it in our plan to train more people next year,” said Dr Beotra.