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Backbreaking shame

It?s shameful for the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to groan under the weight of yet another doping scandal.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 22:38 IST

It’s shameful for the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to groan under the weight of yet another doping scandal. Just a couple of years ago, at the Athens Olympics, lifters like Sanamacha Chanu tarnished India’s modest medal hopes by testing positive for drugs. And now the International Weightlifting Federation has suspended the IWF from all international competitions for up to five years, thanks to the involvement of four lifters in the doping controversy at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

The IWF ban could dash the hopes of scores of young lifters for no fault of theirs. Funds may peter out as sponsors refuse to support sportspersons who wouldn’t be competing in international events anyway. It’s time India’s sports establishment pulled up its socks and did some serious soul searching. Why should such shameful episodes mar India’s modest scorecard on the global sporting arena time and again? Why were lifters like Bodari Prangel Valli, Sailaja Pujari, Edwin Raju and Tejinder Singh — who returned positives for the banned steroid stanozolol in pre-Games tests — not monitored more closely during the run-up to the big event? If, as Indian sports officials insist, these lifters were cleared just before the Games, how could they have suddenly tested positive in Melbourne?

The needle of suspicion appears to persistently point at one of the worst kept sporting secrets: doping is hardly rare among athletes. Anabolic steroids (prescription drugs that mimic the effects of testosterone and help convert protein into muscle), for instance, have been used across the world for years to cheat in professional sport. And it’s not unheard of for coaches to give unsuspecting athletes such muscle-boosting steroids, often masking them as ‘vitamins’. If this was the case in Melbourne, the IWF owes more than an explanation and an apology to the nation. And having learnt a bitter lesson, it should put in place an anti-doping awareness programme as soon as possible so as to restore some transparency to the system.

First Published: Mar 31, 2006 22:38 IST