It's been the story of Indian officialdom for ages and little has changed over the decades. Names keep changing but the modus operandi remains the same - of officials nearing retirement going abroad on study trips and coming back with little to enlighten those back home.
Last November, a fortnight before his retirement, former director-general of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), Mukul Chatterjee, attended the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) conference in Johannesburg.
It has been over three months now, but the NADA office in the Capital is clueless about any positive outcome of Chatterjee's visit.
Since then, the sports ministry has given GSG Ayyangar, joint director of the youth wing, additional charge of the anti-doping body.
But, even as Ayyangar settles down in his new role, another three-member NADA delegation is planning a trip to Lausanne (Switzerland) for the March 25-26 WADA symposium for anti-doping organisations.
In recent times, attending seminars abroad has become a norm for top NADA officials, even as spreading awareness about anti-doping measures has taken a backseat. The fact that NADA hasn't updated its website since 2012, points to the lethargic attitude of the officials at the top.
Asked about the steps he had taken to improve the situation in the country, Ayyangar said he was yet to settle down in his new job. "I can't say anything right now."
Conflict of interest?
The 2009 revised WADA code prepared to assist national anti-doping bodies emphasises that the board should be an independent entity. Or, it should have no more than 50 per cent government stake. In India, the sports minister becomes the ex-officio chairman of NADA's governing body, while the vice-chairman too is from the ministry. Of the six other members, four are from the government (ex-officio).
The NADA chief is also a board member and conflict of interest cannot be ruled out because the ministry gives financial assistance to the national sports federations and prepares national teams for major international events.
But Ayyangar categorically ruled out that it was a stumbling block in NADA's way to efficiently carry out day-to-day functioning. "There is no harm if ministry officials are heading the NADA board because all the major work is done by the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL)," he said.
But the way the NADA panel handled the doping scandal involving six top female quarter-milers in 2011 left a lot to be desired. Subsequently, the world governing body for athletics (IAAF) challenged NADA's one-year ban imposed on the athletes in the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). Finally, the athletes were handed two-year suspensions.
Plans under wrap
As per NADA's annual plan for 2011-2012, it was supposed to collect 3,500 samples with a target of 1000 samples per quarter, but no records have been made available. Their plans too are shrouded in secrecy and no one knows what their target is for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, the two most crucial periods with regard to international competitions.
Sources say that not much is happening in the anti-doping body. "It's quite messy. Hence, the desired effect is not visible," said an official.
"Educating youngsters about the side-effects of doping doesn't cost much," he said. "Testing of urine samples costs around Rs. 12,000-15,000, but there are adequate funds."
Recently, NADA was allocated Rs. 11.60 crore, an increase of Rs. 3.30 crore from the previous allocation of Rs. 8.30 crore. The NDTL will get Rs. 9 crore, a significant jump from the Rs. 5.70 crore it received last year.
But is the money being channelised in the right direction, is the moot question.