‘Goli’ is a term commonly used in Indian athletics. One just needs to be within earshot of a familiar athlete or official, and the words ‘accha goli’, to celebrate an achievement, reach out loud and clear. Loosely, it means a medicine to enhance performance. And everyone knows.
There have been instances when athletes would get caught, as it happened during the 2001 and 2003 National Games, but suddenly, despite the words ‘accha goli’, the number of positive cases dwindled, especially in national meets.
However, in other sport, especially in weightlifting, the numbers never decreased. Some say it’s because the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) got more “organised” and powerful. The so-called golden girls who have tested positive now, have been participating in the Nationals for some time now, and have been representing the country in international meets. So, why are they getting caught now? With their experience, terming contaminated food supplements as an excuse is too flimsy. There are a few theories going around though.
The AFI formed a medical commission and got its marshals to collect samples. At the most, they used to collect 20 samples in a national meet — sometimes of a medallist, but most of the times they were of unknown athletes, taken randomly. Interestingly, this time the National Anti-Doping Agency collected the samples, that too 59, out of which five returned positive. When the World Anti-Doping Agency comes on a surprise visit, most of the athletes flee from their hostels. No action, however, has been taken against the athletes.
Switching of samples?
Take Sunita Rani’s case. Her urine sample collected during the national camp at Patiala in 2002 returned negative, but when tested in Busan, during the Asian Games just a week after, it tested positive.
There have been other cases too when athletes test negative in India and test positive abroad. This indicates that there’s something wrong with the sampling process. Some suggests it’s about switching samples. Bribe the marshal or officials responsible for collecting and get someone else’s urine sampled. All of this comes at a cost though.
If such things are happening, what are the authorities doing --- right from the federation to the coaches and officials? If coaches can be conferred a Dronacharya Award for their wards’ achievements, why can’t they be penalised if their wards get caught? Along with them, even the federation officials should be held accountable and the officials at the centre where they are training. If the weightlifting federation can be dissolved, why can’t the AFI?
It’s time for the sports ministry to find a way of clearing the muck. If needed, the law should be amended and possession of performance-enhancing drugs should be made a criminal offence, as is the case in most European countries.