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SAI just does not have the right manpower

I can very well understand the feeling of desperation in the wake of the spate of positive dope tests; some of them leading athletes who have won medals at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. PSM Chandran writes.

india Updated: Jul 08, 2011 22:22 IST

I can very well understand the feeling of desperation in the wake of the spate of positive dope tests; some of them leading athletes who have won medals at the Asian and Commonwealth Games.

Some things need urgent attention and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) should be at the forefront of being seen as a serious player in the fight. The most important aspect SAI should concentrate on is strengthening its vigil.

How does one expect them to fight the menace with just seven qualified sports medicine doctors, from Faridkot University, being deployed to provide medical cover to athletes across the country.

It's not just the SAI that should take the fight right to the root of the problem but also the armed forces, big institutions such as the Railways and oil companies and federations, who should come forward and employ these doctors.

With just one nutritionist and two sports psychologists on the payroll of the SAI, when the need is for more than a dozen, the workforce is woefully short. These are the specialists who monitor diet and wean athletes away from doping through counselling. The sports ministry is aware of this problem, but it is yet to take effective measures to augment manpower in SAI centres. We shouldn't forget that the SAI is its implementing arm.

By bringing these sports medicine doctors and scientists, we could keep the so-called foreign recovery experts, who have caused the biggest damage to Indian sports, at bay.

This increase in manpower will also help the National Anti-doping Agency (NADA) increase its in-competition and out-of-competition testing and also carry out more effective doping-awareness programmes.

The current mishap should also be the driving force for SAI and NADA to go in for an anti-doping publicity blitz through visual media to reach budding athletes in schools and colleges.

The threat of the stick should also become an integral part of the programme, not just for the athletes but also for the coaches and support staff.

It is neither easy nor advisable for SAI to lock up the trainees after training hours in their rooms or not allow them to leave the camps during weekends, but the fear that cheats would not be spared could work wonders.

If chemist shops are openly selling medicines illegally to the public, including athletes it's as much a responsibility of the local police as it is of the SAI.

For now, SAI is the whipping boy for all the failures, but all that can change if professional manpower and a vigorous publicity campaign is launched and those sitting at the helm are made more accountable.

Finally, someone should be held accountable for the loot that happened in the wake of the CWG. Rs 75 crore was siphoned off to bring up a sports injury centre at the Safdarjung Hospital. Today athletes, even Olympic medallists, have to empty their pockets to get treatment, even in an emergency. Sadly, no questions are asked.

The writer is president, Indian Federation of Sports Medicine