‘Catch them young’ is a phrase fast turning on its head, going by the worrying trend of India’s schoolboys and girls testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
As the nation grapples with doping among seniors, a rising number of positive tests from school competitions shows just how deep the rot is.
The alarm bells are ringing, with many testing positive at the National School Games as well as the All-India Inter-University Games. Recently, at a CBSE track and field competition, a female athlete tested positive for steroids. Rampant doping has been reported from the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) competitions as well.
The situation is scary. Among 62 athletes caught and suspended in tests done by the National Anti-Doping Agency, many are from competitions such as inter-school meets, which are not conducted by national federations.
Experts feel doping at an early age can stunt growth, affect vital organs and leave youngsters prone to injuries, in the process shattering their dreams of graduating to the senior and international levels.
Former Asian Games sprint champion R Gnanasekaran is dejected. He says the situation is such that toilets at venues of zonal and district-level junior meets are littered with disposable syringes. “The doping culture is growing,” he warns.