Junior national shot-putter Ankit Dahiya’s promising career is in jeopardy.
The Delhi-based 19-year-old has been provisionally suspended pending hearing after failing a dope test during a domestic meet and faces a four-year suspension from competition if found guilty.
Though doping among youngsters is not a new phenomenon, the number of offenders is on an alarming high.
Last year, an upcoming Punjab thrower Ketki Sethi was handed an eight-year ban after failing a dope test during the national meet at Patiala. It was her second offence after she failed another test during a school meet.
Medical expert Arun Mendiratta says the trend is distressing. Mendiratta, who has been associated with the discipline for long, adds, “Low-key school and college competitions have become breeding grounds for dope cheats.
The shocking fact that young athletes take pills to win medals even in low-key meets indicates that the menace is deep-rooted. What is more damaging is that it has become a routine of sorts among school and college going athletes.”
Since Athletics Federation of India (AFI) made dope test mandatory in the state meets, offenders in the fringes are also being caught. Last year, three female athletes were caught for using steroids during the West Bengal state meet, while Kerala — considered a powerhouse in athletics — had one positive during state level competition.
“What drives youngsters to take a short cut? Winning medals at any cost,” says Satyapal Singh, a former national level athlete and Dronacharya Awardee. “Since the target is national level, young athletes don’t think of long-term training. Hence they try unfair means for quick gains.”
It’s not just India which is facing this crisis as several nations like Turkey have also been riddled with doping scandals.
In 2013, ahead of the world championships, Turkey suspended over 30 top athletes, including two teenagers. In February last year, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, according to reports, said that young athletes are taking banned substances in sports centres across the country.
More recently, Kazakhstan’s anti-doping head Maria Bakasheva admitted the code violation among youngsters is a worrying factor. According to reports, of the 16 athletes that failed dope tests last year, four were below 18.
According to Mendiratta, the seminars held to educate budding athletes don’t seem to be working. “There should be more frequent testing to put fear in their minds. All stakeholders should join hands to contain the menace.”