Three medallists at the National School Games athletics meet, held at Kozhikode in Kerala from January 29 to February 2, have failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs. Delhi’s Anchal Yadav was champion in the senior girls’ discus throw, while Komal of Vidya Bharathi topped the field in hammer throw. Ravi Kumar of Rajasthan claimed bronze in javelin throw.
The competitive careers of the three athletes have come to a halt due to their provisional suspension pending hearing. The athletes tested positive for stanozolol, a synthetic steroid. With a four-year ban looming large, it could be yet another instance of budding talent going waste.
During the meet, dope-testing officials from the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) had collected 30 urine samples. NADA’s primary focus was on sprinters and throwers. The sprinters, however, escaped the radar. A coach familiar with the School Games said, fewer athletes are taking pills to prop up their performance in middle- and long-distance events, adding that “positive tests in any event are a worrying factor.”
In the junior competitions, organised under the aegis of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), the number of positive cases is over 60. “This is due to the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs by school- and college-going athletes,” said an AFI official.
The culprits, however, are not the big names at the junior level. While, the top-ranked athletes preferred to focus on academics, Anchal Yadav grabbed the opportunity, skipping her class 12 exams to focus on the Kozhikode meet. Her gold medal-winning performance of 40.41m wasn’t close to the meet record of 48.18m set by Navjeet Kaur in 2013.
Komal’s best effort of 44.08m in hammer throw was also off the meet record of 50.83m set by Kanika in 2008. Ravi Kumar won bronze at 63.10m. The eventual winner was Arshdeep Singh of Punjab at 68.12m.
The annual competition held under the aegis of the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) offers a platform to youngsters to showcase talent. The selected athletes represent Asian and global school meets.
Athletes failing dope tests at school level aren’t a new phenomenon. But positive cases highlight the rampant issue of performance-enhancing drugs at grassroots. The figures point to the desperation among teenage athletes to take the shortcut to fame. From January to March, of the eight positive cases, three each are college- and school-going athletes. Perhaps, this might be one of the reasons, fewer juniors graduate to senior division.