India’s poor doping record and the prominent athletes who tested positive around last year’s Rio Olympics call for tightening the monitoring system, but the country’s regulatory authority has significantly reduced the number of tests.
The National Anti-doping Agency’s decision to prune the number of athletes it tests in domestic meets has left the national federations worried it would encourage athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs.
CV Valson, secretary general of Athletics Federation of India, told HT: “It will be embarrassing if the number of dope cheats goes up at domestic level. Even good performances will then be viewed differently by other nations.”
NADA director general Naveen Agarwal didn’t respond to calls and text message by HT.
The World Anti-doping Agency’s 2013 adverse analytical report had ranked India third among dope cheats at the world level, behind Russia and Turkey.
In 2016, the number of athletes caught for doping in India stood at 90 by November.
BIG NAMES FAIL
Last year, ahead of the Rio Olympics, three high-profile athletes—shot putter Inderjeet Singh, sprinter Dharambir Singh and Priyanka Panwar failed dope tests.
The roll back on dope tests comes despite the sports ministry according it high priority. Its 12-point agenda for giving recognition to sports federations includes making efforts for dope free sport and compliance with the NADA/WADA codes.
Officials of the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF), another Olympic discipline that has seen a high number of doping cases, are confused.
Sahdev Yadav, officiating secretary of IWF, said: “All our past efforts to check the menace of doping will become meaningless if regular dope tests are not conducted.”
NO TESTING RIGOUR
Yadav said the number of dope tests at domestic level has become a sort of ritual. “Last year, the 180 urine samples taken were equally spread over three groups--- youth, junior and senior. This time, anti-doping officials skipped youth and junior events, but conducted eight tests in the senior group.”
The AFI is also complaining about a lack of dope policing as its top athletes prepare for the Asian Athletics Championships to be held at Ranchi in June.
Before the Rio Games, top athletes were subjected to random dope tests in the national camps as well as the domestic meets. “Our camp began in December for international preparation, but no test has been conducted,” CK Valson said. No dope test was conducted at the national cross-country meet held last week in Bhopal, he added.
Jagtar Singh, decathlon champion in the January 11-15 All India Inter University meet held at Coimbatore wasn’t tested. Valson said: “These days school and college-level competitions have become the breeding ground for doping. We have to educate budding athletes and also keep strict control.”
NARANG TAKES AIM
Recently, London Olympics medal-winning shooter, Gagan Narang criticised anti-doping authorities, urging them to make testing mandatory in all domestic competitions.
The 10m air rifle shooter, raised concerns over the absence of testing during the national trials held in Pune from January 11 to 23.
Narang later told HT he wants strict vigil to be kept as he was concerned by the high scores achieved at the trials.
“I’m not saying shooters indulge in unfair means to achieve high scores, I’m just pointing out a situation that can be controlled. It’s my observation, and it all depends on how the stakeholders think about it. A lot of things are at stake and the scores are going high all of a sudden,” he said.