With just five months to go for the Rio Olympic Games, the figures on doping violations in the country, furnished by the sports ministry in the Rajya Sabha, are unhealthy.
Dope cheats are on the rise, if data of the previous two years are taken into consideration.
In response to a question raised by Avinash Rai Khanna as to the number of Indian athletes having failed dope tests in the last three years, sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal stated that as many as 120 sportspersons had failed dope tests in 2015, while the number of offenders was 95 in 2014.
In its reply, the ministry also stated that the number of dope offenders in 2012, which was the Olympic year, was 119. The number, however, dropped to 99. But the figure went up again in 2015.
Despite stringent punishment --- from January 2015 onward, for the first doping violation the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) had enhanced the ban from two to four years --- it is not a deterrent for those seeking competitive edge. This January, as many as eight athletes have already failed dope tests. Among the offenders, it is learnt, are a handful of lifters who failed dope tests during the All India Inter-Varsity meet. Besides, weightlifting, track and field is another discipline that is rocked by doping.
As per WADA’s doping violation official list released last year, India was ranked third. Russia was the leader, followed by Turkey. Going by the WADA list, the country’s track and field athletes topped the list of dope offenders, followed by weightlifters.
India alone isn’t facing the menace of doping. The world, in fact, had been reeling under the shadow of doping. Whenever a high-profile athlete tests positive, it becomes a hot topic of debate. Recently, Russia’s track and field federation was suspended by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for alleged state-run doping programme, while Kenya --- the East African nation which is home to some of the finest distance runners --- is also under WADA scanner. Since Kenya had failed to comply with WADA rules, it’s participation in Rio looks doubtful.
WADA is supposed to review the measures taken by Kenya in the first week of April. If unsatisfactory, Kenyan athletes could be barred from Rio.
According to the ministry, to check the menace of doping, the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) regularly conducts anti-doping awareness programme and makes efforts to bring all the stakeholders, including national sports federations (NSFs), on a common platform. During 2015-16, as many as 45 anti-doping awareness workshops were conducted by NADA.
The measures, it seems, are not very effective as youngsters and those on the fringes continue to fail dope tests. Recently, a junior national medallist in shot put tested positive for banned substances. He has been provisionally suspended and faces a four-year ban if found guilty.