With record prize money and intensified drug testing, the third World Cup Kabaddi tournament, featuring a total of 23 teams, including Canada, will begin at Bathinda, Punjab in India on December 1.
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the state sports minister, said that teams from 16 nations would compete in the 15-day event in the men’s section and seven in the women’s competition.
Host India lifted the winner’s title in the men’s and women’s section of the second World Cup Kabaddi tournament last year after the games were marred by a series of embarrassing doping scandals.
In last year’s tournament 53 participants, including eight from Canada, were stripped of their prize monies.
Among those who tested positive were one each from India, Pakistan, Germany and Argentina, three from Norway, six from Australia, seven each from Spain and Italy, eight each from USA and Canada and 10 from United Kingdom.
All of them were barred from further participation in the event. This amounted to 29 per cent of the total participants.
The biggest cut last year was for the team from Canada, as the Canadian men’s kabaddi team was to be given $180,000 as prize money — it had stood second in the tournament.
The team, however, only got $70,000 in prize money.
The tournament organizers had asked for samples of 220 players during the kabaddi championship last year, of which 53 either tested positive or declined to give their samples, officials said, adding approximately 90 per cent of the positive tests have been for steroids.
Canadian team officials while admitting the problem was serious said the Canadian athletes tested positive for substances other than steroids.
Most of 14 members of the Canadian team were from British Columbia and Ontario, where the Canada’s four kabaddi federations are located.
A brainchild of Badal, the tournament was highlighted as a showcase event of the Punjab government.
To curb the use of drugs this year, Badal said the state will spend $4 million on anti-doping measures so as to keep the tournament drug free.
“If any team or its member is caught with drugs, the prize money will be withdrawn and the players will be barred for two years,” he said, according to reports in Indian media.
An anti-doping committee has been formed, which will be responsible to look after the pre and post tournament anti-doping affairs and submit a report to the organizing committee on conclusion of the event.
The men’s teams this year are from Afghanistan, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, England, Iran, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, the U.S. and hosts India.
The top three teams in the men’s kabaddi will get prizes of $360,000, $180,000 and $91,000.
In the women’s section, the teams are from Canada, Denmark, England, Malaysia, Turkmenistan, the US and India.
The top three teams in the women’s event will get prizes of $91,000, $55,000 and $37,000 respectively.
The matches will be played at Bathinda, Patiala, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Doda (Muktsar), Sangrur, Roopnagar, Chohla Sahib (Tarn Taran), Fazilka, Gurdaspur, Mansa, Jalandhar and Ludhiana all in the northern India state of Punjab.
Indo-Canadian Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar will perform at the opening ceremonies.
Meanwhile, Kabbadi players from India who come to Canada to play in tournaments are also being scrutinized by Immigration Canada.
Last year, Immigration Canada reported that of the 670 visas issued in 2011 to players from India, 91 have not returned home, while 27 have filed refugee claims.
With files from IANS/news agencies