Last week’s tirade against the Indian cricketers has left me confused and baffled. Instead of debating the pros and cons of the ‘whereabouts’ clause, the media and sportsmen have condemned the cricketers, and the impression created is that the players don’t want to subject themselves to dope tests.
This, I think, is grossly unfair. As has been reported, when WADA introduced this clause, most federations and athletes had serious misgivings.
A lot of them still do, though they have fallen in line, some by choice, others ‘reluctantly’ (as if they had a choice!).
India remained almost immune to this debate when it was raging in the world media. But once the cricketers raised their voice in protest, most of us reacted with self-righteous indignation and dubbed them mulish, ignorant and selfish.
True, the BCCI needs to be castigated for reacting to the concerns of the players at the last minute, which has created a crisis-like situation.
But that is a subject of a different debate. Right now let us stick to the “invasion of privacy” charge and our love-hate relationship with the cricketers.
Isn’t it strange that when the BCCI takes on the ICC on issues like umpiring errors or the decisions of match-referees against its players, the whole media stands behind it, not caring if laws have to be broken to get “justice” from the world body? At that time it becomes a fight between the “oppressed us” and the “racist them”. In jingoism, we stand united, not caring about the rules of the game, goading the board and the players to revolt.
But in this WADA case, when the cricketers actually have a point that they play a team sport in which they’re on the field for almost 11 months a year, and are available for testing, why not let them live in peace for a month? And they’re not refusing to make themselves available for testing even in that period — they only don’t want to divulge their whereabouts, which is a constitutional right of every citizen of this world, unless he is a criminal.
I am not getting into the argument that unlike a lot of other sports in India (especially athletics, which is riddled with doping even at the junior level, but is rarely caught) cricket is relatively free of this scourge.
Though even cricket’s worst critics will agree that players can’t benefit from performance-enhancing drugs, they should still follow the WADA code.
But that does not mean that if an Abhinav Bindra or a Sania Mirza has no problem with their privacy being intruded for the “greater cause” of their sport, others must follow. Let us not take away the right of the players to protect their privacy. In the eyes of the law, one is innocent until proven guilty. This clause, however, makes an athlete guilty until proven innocent. I’m sure it not only goes against the tenets of a civilized society, but is also bad in law.