For the highs India's track and field athletes have achieved in the international arena in the last few years, they have also endured the shame of doping. The women's 4x400m relay team triumphed in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games only for the runners to be caught in the doping net.
India has gained notoriety with doping widespread among its athletes. With the Rio Olympics barely a year away, that should goad everyone concerned to show extra vigil to ensure the country's athletes are clean.
However, there isn't much scope for a positive outlook in track and field. India's top athletes are reluctant to provide their whereabouts to the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), which is in the process of collecting data of athletes for a national testing pool. The mandatory whereabouts clause requires athletes to provide information for a 60-minute testing slot every day of the week.In June, NADA wrote to the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) about its proposal, but out of the 40 athletes under the doping body's scanner for the July-September quarter, only 15 athletes have responded. It involves providing information, usually on the agency's website, although the athletes can make changes if required.
The athletes can provide time slots from 5 am to 11pm. Under the 2015 World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) code, three missed tests in the span of 12 months will lead to anti-doping violation. Saravana Perumal, senior project officer of NADA, said, "All athletes shortlisted by this office haven't responded." NADA is focusing on athletics to start with, and would add other Olympics disciplines, including weightlifting, later on.
Among those under NADA's scanner are women discus throwers Krishna Punia and Seema Antil (Punia). Members of the victorious Incheon Games women's 4x400m relay team as well and leading shot-putter Inderjit Singh have also been included in the list of 40. However, many top athletes like Seema Antil, the Incheon Asian Games champion, and triple jumper Renjith Maheswary - both have tested positive in the past - have not provided whereabouts information, it is learnt. The reluctance of the athletes raises questions about AFI's claim that only those on the fringes are guilty of doping and that those attached to the national camps are clean. AFI president Adille Sumariwalla had said school and college athletes were the main culprits.
The elaborate monitoring effort is the first of its kind exercise by NADA. The agency has been criticised for its casual approach as it has been slow in managing results in cases of positive tests. As it has only one hearing panel, it takes over six months, resulting in a huge backlog.
Perumal said despite the indifference of the athletes, NADA will implement its programme.
"We will start by keeping track of athletes who have given their whereabouts." But he was silent on what action NADA planned to take against those not willing to comply.