Drug abuse grows in Indian sports
Recently the Flying Sikh Milkha Singh created a furore when he said that that the apathy of the authorities and increasing drug abuse among athletes would be the key factors responsible for the "poor performance" in the Athens Olympics.
"I don't think our players can bring back any medal. It will be hoping too much from them knowing well that the performance which they achieve back home, mainly by using performance enhancing drugs, is seldom duplicated in international events," he said.
Milkha Singh does not seem to be too off the mark.
Two members of the Indian contingent for the Athens Olympics, including a top track and field athlete, have reportedly tested positive for drugs.
This revelation turns on its head the recent statement by Union Minister of Sports Sunil Dutt who told the Parliament that Indian athletes going to Athens had not taken drugs.
He denied that athletes were taking a substance code named white tablet and are following a doping chart given to them.
But a Sports Ministry official told the Hindustan Times that there had been rumours from Monday night of the possibility of positive dope tests, but naming anyone would lead to huge embarrassment for the entire contingent.
Long jumper Amritpal Singh was dropped from the contingent last week ostensibly because of injury. It is not known whether he is one of the athletes concerned.
It's not just the higher echelons of the sporting arena where drug abuse is rampant. What is worrying is that the rot is setting in at the very foundations, at the level where selections are made for the international circuit.
Recently the national powerlifting championships in Jamshedpur was rocked by the drug scandal.
A leading daily in Kolkata had reported that scores of syringes and vials were found scattered near the venue of a national competition in Jamshedpur,which is considered to be the "very launchpad of competitive sports in the country".
The report said that at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur, where the national sub-junior powerlifting championships were being held, several participants were seen taking injections before their respective events.
The lifters were quite open about the use of drugs and openly admitted to their use. A girl said that she had taken two shots on her hip. She identified the injections as Duraboline, a banned anabolic steroid, and Eldervit-12, a vitamin.
As in the international arena where masking agents or diuretics are taken to cover up the presence of drugs in the blood, she said
Eldervit-12 was injected to “cover up” Duraboline. “Eldervit-12 is a vitamin which does not come under the ambit of the banned substance. Even if I am caught by the officials, I can easily show the vials of the Eldervit-12. I have destroyed the vial of the banned substance,” she added.
The Indian team for the World Sub-junior Powerlifting Championship will be selected on the basis of performance in this meet. While the aim today seems to have become winning at any cost, at the international level such tactics yield poor results as athletes cannot face up to international standards.
These are but just some instances among the many not reported, not known.
One of the biggest cases to rock Indian sports was the case of the golden girl Sunita Rani. She was stripped of her Busan gold and bronze medals aftet having tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone. TV and newspapapers were replete with pictures of the transfromation of Sunita. How the slightly built Sunita's physique had changed and she carried a very masculine appearance. All along Sunita Rani kept denying the charges and was finally acquitted anomalies were detected in the testing procedure. Sunita got her medals back in February 2003. But sceptics remain. Was she really clean?
But despite the denials and assurances by the govt, the drug menace has been growing in Indain sports.
Twenty one athletes were found guilty of doping by the national Olympic body after being caught during the National Games in December, 2002.
Doping cases have not just been found in power sports but the malaise has spread to sports such as rowing, cycling and volleyball.
That Indian sportspersons have been taking drugs has existed as a fact since long but the issue was suddenly in focus when two male weightlifters were stripped of their medals in the Manchester commonwealth games for testing positive for banned drugs.
The winning at all costs mentality rules. Drugs are available freely over the counter. The Sports Authority of India in 2003 had itself drawn up a list of 300 postive cases in nine years and submitted it to the high court but any decision on all the cases has yet to come.
Despite the government's claims that testing has begun at junior levels also and the IOA's promise of a drug free India by 2005, much, it is clear, still remains to be done.