On a day when the Indian shooting team was announced for the Commonwealth Games, it emerged that none of the marksmen who underwent trials at Pune and Delhi for the quadrennial games were tested for dope.
Random dope tests are mandatory in National championships and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Sports Ministry should have been proactive, given the prestige of the country is at stake and the fact that the Indian Weightlifting Federation had to shell out R five crore to get the doping ban overturned.
The issue was also raised at a National Rifle Association of India meeting a couple of days back, given that an upcoming pistol shooter, Ankush Bhardwaj—who received training at a private academy in Dehradun — became the first Indian to test positive for a banned Beta blocker (which steadies the arm of a shooter by controlling his heartbeat) at an international event in Suhl, Germany in May. The International Shooting Sport Federation then imposed sanctions on the marksman at a meeting before the start of the World Championships. A shooting official said that the SAI and the National coach should have been more concerned.
Confirming that dope tests were conducted at all the four trials preceding the final trial in Pune, which concluded on Tuesday, an international shooter Shimon Sharif said, "Random dope tests have been a norm at national camps and trials. I don't know how they could be lax just before the CWG. The SAI has information about all the national trials in the country as they are the ones who hold them."
Rahul Bhatnagar, the Sports Ministry's joint-secretary (International Sports Division) said, the tests are not mandatory during trials. "They'll be conducted during the course of the CWG."
But at a time when competition for every single berth in Indian shooting is as fierce as any top-level international championships, there's all the more reason to have them in the final trials. Ankush, incidentally, was part of the core group preparing for the October Games. He was later expelled.