At a time when the sports world is rocked by major doping scandals, India has not conducted a single dope test on its sportspersons for the past three months.
This, despite the country having one of the worst track records as far as rogue athletes are concerned.
Reason for the miss: the Sports Authority of India (SAI), whose duty it is to collect urine samples from sportspersons, has run out of sample-collection kits.
Though no major domestic tournament took place in these three months, some teams (athletics, volleyball, hockey and boxing) left for competitions abroad without tests.
The volleyball team took part in the Rashid International tournament in Dubai while the sub-junior boxing squad is currently in Istanbul for the World Cadet Championships.
Now, why are the three months so vital? For one, the Asian Games in Doha are just four months away. Someone has to ensure that the athletes are clean — or cleaned up — before that.
The SAI conducts 1,500-2,000 tests a year (even though Indians still get caught around the spectra). This means, it has skipped 450-480 tests during this period. Only time will tell how crucial these misses will be.
The other vital part is that SAI is trying for accreditation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for a Dope Control Centre.
Currently, samples are sent to accredited labs in either Malaysia or Thailand. Instances like this (call it sloppiness or negligence) are a bad reflection on the organisation.
Also, not conducting tests on sportspersons before they leave for competitions abroad violates an order of the Delhi High Court.
The court, which acted after several positive tests by Indians, wanted pre-departure dope tests (though WADA does not allow them) to prevent further embarrassment to India in international competitions.
So, why the shortage of sample-collection kits? SAI failed to purchase more kits in time. Director-general (SAI) Ratan Watal says, "We wanted to channelise our purchasing procedure, and thus wanted to purchase through global tenders. That's why the deal was delayed a bit."
Watal admitted there was a goof-up. "We knew about the shortage of kits, so we had asked the teams' wing to arrange for kits on an ad-hoc basis," he says. "That should have been done." But it wasn’t.