If the number of sportspersons caught using banned substances — which went up by 21 as a new scandal unfolded on Saturday — is anything to go by, it appears our athletes have taken to the Indian dope trick for quick success.
The 21, all weightlifters, tested positive for banned steroids and stimulants and have been “provisionally suspended” by the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF).
Among them are several school and college-going athletes as well as pros like Geeta Rani, a 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Arjuna Awardee, who failed a dope test during the recently-concluded National Games in Kerala.
“This can be called one of the biggest catches in recent times,” IWF vice-president Sahdev Yadav said. “All of them have been provisionally suspended pending their ‘B’ sample results. As per new World Anti Doping Agency rules, first-time offenders face a four-year ban.”
He added that the lifters were in competition at national and departmental (universities, railways, police) meets.
Of the 21, a majority are from Punjab, Delhi and Haryana. Facing bans are Taranbir Singh, a top Punjab lifter in the senior category, as well as Simranpreet Kaur, Amritpal Singh and Arshdeep Kaur — who did the same state proud in the Yamuna Nagar junior nationals in January.
Yadav attributed the big catch to more surprise in-competition testing now being done at the college level. Top IWF officials, too, said the national federation was pushing for strict implementation of anti-doping rules at this level but was facing opposition from the Association of Indian Universities, which controls inter-varsity meets.
In contrast to domestic competitions, the dope trick doesn’t seem to be much in use among international-level athletes. “That is because we have stringent rules in national camps,” said Yadav.