Saturday, August 13th, 2022 23:55:13

Shame! Indian Sports

Updated: October 2, 2010 11:26 am

According to a new Oxford University study, 55 per cent of India’s population of 1.1 billion, or 645 million people, are living in poverty. Using a newly-developed index, the study found that about one-third of the world’s poor live in India. However Arjun Sengupta report has said 77 per cent of Indians live on less than Rs 20 a day while the NC Saxena Committee report had said 50 per cent of people live below poverty. In these circumstances, while the government is citing resources crunch to help the poor, it paid (through dubious means)— whopping $500,000 fine to get the ban lifted on Indian Weightlifting Association (IWF), so that lifters can take part in the Commonwealth Games.

                The fine was imposed by the world governing body after six Indian lifters failed drug tests last year. The speed with which government got the Games organisers provide the IWF “interest-free loan” so that it can clear the dues to the World Body was shocking because no other country— developing or developed—has ever paid such a hefty fine to clear its tainted athletes. By paying this huge amount, the government has done enormous harm to Indian sports because the athletes now know that in the garb of ‘national prestige’ that can get away with murder. It is accepted fact that ‘tainted’ athletes never bring glory to the country, they disgrace it and they deserve no mercy.

                By paying such huge fine for players who failed tests, government has made India an object of ridicule in the eyes of the sporting world. Here was a government which refuses to give food, rotting in its warehouses, free to the poor people, but was extra fast in paying a half-a-million dollar fine in a hope to earn few more medals in the already ‘tainted’ Commonwealth Games.

                Couple of days after the payment of this unprecedented fine, Country’s sports establishment was shaken to its core when 12 athletes tested positive for the drugs, including eight who were to represent the nation in the Commonwealth Games.

                Six wrestlers, two swimmers, two athletes, one weightlifter and a netball players failed the dope test. Freestyle wrestlers—Rajiv Tomar (120kg), who was conferred Arjuna Award last month, Sumit (74kg) and Mausam Khatri (96kg) and women’s freestyle wrestler Gursharanpreet Kaur (72kg)—were removed from Commonwealth Games squad. Rahul Mann (60kg men’s freestyle) and Joginder Singh (55kg men’s Greco Roman) were the other two wrestlers but were not part of the Games squad. Other failed sportspersons were women swimmers Richa Mishra and Jyotsana Pansare, shot-putter Saurabh Vij, discus-thrower Aakash Antil and netball player Megha Chaudhary, a Commonwealth Games probable.

                Delhi’s Saurabh was considered to be a medal prospect for the country in the Games. Antil, a young Haryana discus-thrower, however was not part of the squad for the Games. Saurav and young Antil tested positive in the dope tests conducted during the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships at Patiala from August 5-8.

                Richa, was adjudged the best female swimmer of the 64th National Championship in Jaipur, and Jyotsana were named in the CWG swimming squad. Sanamacha Chanu, one of the most successful woman weightlifters in the country, also failed test for the second time and could face a life ban if she is unable to clear her name before a hearing panel. Chanu, a former Asian and the 2002 Commonwealth Games champion tested positive during the trials here last month. She had earlier tested positive, for a diuretic, at the Athens Olympics in 2004, a violation that resulted in her expulsion, along with that of another woman lifter Pratima Kumari, from the Games. It brought her and the country great embarrassment, prompted the IOA and the IWF to initially impose a life ban on her and eventually ended up in a two-year ban.

                This time the result was kept secret and even IWF president BP Baishya refused to acknowldge that she has tested postive. He even went on to say: “We have received information that all the 15 lifters named in the Indian team for the Games have cleared dope tests.”

                However IWF secretary Sahdev Yadav gave a new twist to the whole issue by admitting that one lifter, who was not in the Commonwealth Games squad had tested positive but refused to divulge the name. In fact, Chanu’s test report was available four days ago and she had been put under provisional suspension.

                Chanu, Arjuna Award winner in 2000, manage only the third place during the trials in a three-woman field in the 53 kg category, during the trials, totalling 172 kg and failed to make the team. So far all the sportspersons indicted have tested positive for methylhexanamine, a powerful nerve stimulant which was added as a banned substance only in January this year by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

                Apart from these 11-sportspersons, there were four boxers and two judokas in the training camps who failed the tests and have been provisionally suspended. They are (boxers) Sanjeev Kumar, Abdul Rahman, Pitamber and Mohan Phogat. While the first three tested positive for nandrolone, Phogat was suspended for methandienone abuse. Tests of judokas James Laldinpuia and Karamraj revealed traces of nandrolone and stanozolol respectively. According to Swimming Federation of India (SFI) secretary Virender Nanavati, Richa and Jyotsana would not compete in the Commonwealth Games. “They can now appear before the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) disciplinary panel. But that is more of a formality and they are technically out of the Games.”

                Though officials were quick to take action by debarring the ‘tainted’ players from taking part, they were not able to explain why they were not able to stop players from taking this ‘banned’ substance. To add to their woes, the NADA announced that as many as 103 sportspersons, including juniors, have failed dope-related tests in the last eight months. “If you see the overall picture, from January to August, we have taken 2,047 samples out of which 103 were found positive,” said Rahul Bhatnagar, joint secretary (International Sports Division) in Sports Ministry.

                Most of the sportspersons involved cried foul saying they were innocent and they had no knowldge of that, the substance (methyl-hexanamine), they were taking was banned. “We were not told by the officials or coaches,” cried wrestler Rajiv Tomar: “Most of us are not computer savy. How you expect us to download the guidelines issued by the WADA. We have no knowldge of these things.”

                There may be some substance in what some they say. Many believe that ignorance and a lack of awareness about new substances in the country might be the main reason behind some of the athletes failing the tests.

                Saurav Vij, ranked 19th in Asia, was in tears while pleading innocence. “Sir, they don’t tell me what is my fault, what I have taken and what I have gained after taking that? I was concentrating on my throw, I was doing well and suddenly this happened but I am totally clueless and no body is telling me what I did,” he said.

               What is World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was formed on November 10, 1999 following the First World Conference on Doping in Sport held in Lausanne in February that year. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) took the initiative to convene the conference since it felt there was a long-time need to have an autonomous body to lay down uniform standards for anti-doping measures across different sports, apart from coordinating anti-doping programmes, conducting research, spreading awareness and monitoring the work of different agencies.

                The formation of WADA followed a major doping scandal during the 1998 Tour de France when police confiscated a large amount of prohibited substances during a raid. The outcry that followed convinced the sports administrators that there was a need to have a body solely dealing with anti-doping, unifying the efforts of various agencies and laying down policies for the entire sports world to follow. The Olympic Movement, with the IOC being the major contributor, and the governments equally fund the WADA. The governments and the Olympic Movement alternate in taking the post of the chairman of WADA. The chairman and vice-chairman are elected for a three-year term each, but they could be re-elected for a second term.

                The WADA is composed of a foundation board and an executive board and it has several committees that advice it on various programmes and issues. The world anti-doping code, to be known later as simply the code, was finalised in 2003. On January 1, 2004, it came into effect. It has since undergone one revision with a revised version coming into effect from January 1, 2009.

                The code decides the broad principles of the anti-doping campaign around the world, in different sports. Individual International Federations can lay down their own rules and regulations for their anti-doping programme, but will require to adopt certain mandatory portions of the rules stipulated by the code. This applies to the National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) also. The NADOs are in charge of anti-doping matters in different countries. Where NADOs have not been formed, the respective National Olympic Committees (NOCs) are supposed to perform this task.

                The WADA lays down norms for the world of sports; the code, the international standards for testing, for laboratories etc, and models of best practice and guidelines for its stakeholders to follow. All processes are done through a prolonged consultative process among stakeholders, discussed by various committees before being approved by the executive board for implementation.

                The WADA issues the prohibited list at the beginning of every year. The list is put through a rigorous scrutiny through three different stages. In April-May, WADA circulates a draft prohibited list, of the following year, to all stakeholders for consultations. WADA expects stakeholders to express local or global concerns in relation to any substance. The draft list is further discussed by WADA’s scientific committees and eventually by the executive board in September. By October the list is released and it comes into effect from January 1 next year.

There is thus plenty of time to study the list in case one is keen to do that.

                Apart from its list committee, WADA also has a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) committee, among other panels. The WADA TUE committee can review TUEs granted by other anti-doping authorities. TUEs are granted to athletes in order for them to use prohibited substances in diseases where there are no other options. The TUEs are approved only after a thorough evaluation of the claims made by the athletes, their medical documents, test reports etc.

                The WADA also grants accreditations to laboratories around the world to make them eligible to test samples of sportspersons. Disciplinary sanctions can only be imposed by competent authorities if the samples are tested at WADA-accredited laboratories.

                There are 34 accredited laboratories in the world at present including one in Delhi, the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL), which received accreditation in 2008. The code guides International Federations, National Anti-Doping Organisations, International Olympic Committee and other sports bodies at national level to enforce the anti-doping policies of the WADA.

                The primary role of WADA is that of a monitoring agency. WADA can intervene in doping cases by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), an exclusive international court for sport based in Lausanne, Switzerland. WADA also coordinates out-of-competition testing, wherever possible, in tackling the menace of doping. On its own WADA tests only a very limited number of samples every year. Its testing is mainly done in areas where there would be no NADOs and NOCs are not really keen to carry on with the task for want of funds or interest.

                WADA’s athlete outreach programme is also gaining momentum. This is basically an educational and awareness programme to be implemented by stakeholders to bring athletes up to date with information about anti-doping, harmful effects of doping, measures and advances made in the field, changes in the prohibited list and insight into research. WADA encourages its stakeholders to make available education material to the athletes.

                The governments are equal stakeholders with the Olympic Movement in the WADA and with the adoption of the UNESCO convention against doping in sport by 110 countries by April this year, with another 83 waiting to complete the process of ratification, anti-doping is no longer an activity carried out by an NGO. The WADA has now made provisions in the code to recommend the removal of any Olympic sport to the IOC if it comes to the conclusion that such a sport is unwilling to cooperate in the anti-doping sphere. For countries that refuse to fall in line, WADA can recommend to the IOC to withhold financial assistance before taking further disciplinary action.

                International Federations that are not signatories to the code will not be considered for inclusion in the Olympics, a worry that forced the International Cricket Council (ICC) in recent months to strike a compromise formula with the WADA regarding the ‘whereabouts’ rules. The ICC was under pressure from the Indian Board to break away from the WADA code because of the reservations expressed by Indian superstars about the ‘whereabouts’ rules that, they felt, would intrude into their privacy.

                Through a web-based programme named Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS), the anti-doping authorities are in constant touch with the WADA in managing complex procedures needed for anti-doping measures. The system links data provided by accredited laboratories, stores ‘whereabouts’ information of the athletes, records anti-doping procedures, disciplinary procedures and appeal process.

                WADA is the ‘clearing house’ for the management system and stores confidential information about athletes and individual doping cases. WADA also funds research into anti-doping matters. Gene doping is one area where WADA is concentrating on currently because of the tremendous possibilities science has in this field to manipulate human body.

                Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, WADA has an observer programme for major multi-discipline Games and championships in order to critically evaluate arrangements and procedures at dope controls.

One such team would be in Delhi also next month when the city hosts the Commonwealth Games. There is a general misconception about the stipulations formulated by the WADA, with critics often thinking that these are arbitrary decisions taken by the world anti-doping body. They are in fact arrived at through consultations and meetings among all stakeholders over a period of time and have the backing of all organisations involved in international sport. For example, the ‘whereabouts’ rules that had come in for so much criticism from several quarters, had the backing of 90 per cent of the stakeholders including a large majority of the athletes’ bodies, WADA found out in a survey recently.

                According to veteran journalist KP Mohan, cheats and their supporters will continue to find fault with anything and everything that WADA does, will pick holes in the system, bring up legal hurdles, question ethical issues and create controversies. Mohan, authority on the subject in the country, however says mercifully, the IOC is fully backing WADA and so too a large majority of the International Federations. Unless the fight against doping is intensified, sport will become a playfield for pharmaceutical companies, unscrupulous coaches and doctors and those who believe in winning at all costs. (HSB)

The affected players say they are innocent, they want inquiry but NADA insists that it is the responsibility of the sportspersons to know about the banned substance. NADA chief Bhatnagar has another view: “In some cases, the coaches and even the support personnel give suggestions to intake certain items. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the sportsperson to be careful.

                We organise seminars and coaching camps to educate them about the banned substances and tell them that they have to be very careful. These are things that can affect their careers and can have a very long-term effect.”

                However the fact remains that 90 per cent of the sportspersons train in the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre by their coaches. Thus it is their responsibility to keep the players informed about WADA’s list.


Indian Olympic Association (IOA) secretary general Randhir Singh is of the view that it is the responsibility of athletes to know more about the doping menace to keep their career taint-free. “Ignorance is not always a bliss,” he said and added that he does not subscribe to the argument that indicted athletes were not aware of the banned substances.

                “The athletes were aware of prohibited drugs and there was no excuse for taking them. Sports Authority of India and respective federations circulate (brochures) about prohibited drugs. The team doctors know it and they must have informed the athletes,” he asserted.

                Randhir also a secretary general of Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said that those guilty would be punished under anti-doping rules. “It is simple, you take the prohibited drugs or you don’t. If you take, the WADA rules are very tough. Everybody who takes banned drug will have to be punished. For the offence you can be banned,” he averred.

                “As a sportsman, I would say athletes themselves are responsible for the incidents. Neither federations nor the IOA nor SAI would be disturbed but only their careers will be hampered. The person has to wake up and look after himself and they themselves should know what they are using,” Randhir, who is also Commonwealth Games Organising Committee vice-chairman, added.

                “If all the players who failed the tests are consuming the same medicine and nobody knows, then it’s ridiculous. They surely knew about it,” he said: “Doping is a big menace and a very unfortunate thing.” Meanwhile Sports Minister MS Gill has also declared that strict action would be taken against any athletes found guilty of drug abuse.

                “The message to the athletes is what I often give. It is true that we do want lots of medals in the Commonwealth Games. But even if we get one, we want that medal with honor. Winning medals should be in a clean and fair way. We have to kill the abuse of dope.” he added.

                General Association of National Sports Federations (GANSF) president Vijay Kumar Malhotra has also sought stern action against sportspersons who have failed dope test but with a rider. He has demanded that Sports Ministry should immediately initiate a high level inquiry to find out the culprits who are responsible for the sportspersons failing the dope test.

                “Practically all coaching and training is done in the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centers. Apart from sportspersons, coaches, doctors and officials of SAI should also be investigated,” Malhotra said.

                He said that IOA should issue a clear and stern warning to the sportspersons that they will be banned for life, if they test positive. “The coaches, doctors and officials should also be told in no uncertain terms that they will also have to face the consequences if their players fail the test.

                He however was intrigued at this sudden surfeit of dope testing reports: “Suddenly what has happened that so many players have failed the dope test,” he wanted to know.

                Former India Hockey Captain Pargat Singh strongly pleaded for drug-free games: “I want the players to be given fair trial and chance to present their case before action is taken against them.” (HSB)

WADA puts the list of banned substances in their generic names on their website. Lack of proper information about the products or medicines in which these substances could be found can prove fatal for athletes in our country where awareness about sports medicines is virtually non-existent.

                When a sportsperson wins a medal, the coaches and officials are all around him to get photographed and also share the prize money. They will go to any length to show how they nurtured the talent, who they fine-tuned the skill of the medal winner. They will stake their claim for Dronacharya Award for produce a medal winner but when the same sportsperson is in crisis, they all vanish.

                “There is not a single official or coach who has stood by us,” said one athlete who has been tested postive. It is not our fault. We have no idea. Why should I take a substance when i know that if caught, it will ruin my carrer.”

                But there is no denying that Doping is a big problem in Indian sports. Some even say it is bigger than match-fixing in Pakistan Cricket. There is a joke going around that if three or four foreigners are found walking together near SAI Campus in Patiala or Bangalore, there is a stampede as sportspersons try to run away from field (if they are practicing) or from their rooms, thinking that WADA inspection team has come.


Suddenly sports circles in India are abuzz about Methylhexaneamine—a banned stimulant in the list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It is for the first time the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) has reported the substance, at least in the case of an Indian athlete. The substance was included in the WADA prohibited list from January 1 this year as a “non-specified stimulant”.

                According to WADA description methylhexaneamine is a non-therapeutic substance. It may not be completely non-therapeutic since from its discovery in the 1940s, it was used as a nasal decongestant, according to information available on the web. Eleven Indians, training at different places in the North (Patiala, Sonepat and Delhi), tested positive for the same substance—stimulant that does not figure much in anti-doping parlance?

                According to KP Mohan, an authority on this subject, there has even been suggestions that the medicine is not available in the country and unless it was available through illegal means, it is difficult for a sportsperson to get it. Because of its capacity to stimulate the central nervous system (CNS), the drug has also been reported to be an ingredient in “party pills”.

                The WADA brought in the substance in its 2010 list describing it a “non-specified” stimulant, meaning there would be no concessions for unintended use and such arguments. Mohan says he was surprised that the WADA did not have the drug earlier in its banned list.

                Back in May, 2006, the Washington Post reported that an Illinois chemist (Patrick Arnold who later underwent a prison term for providing steroids to a number of sportspersons in the BALCO scandal) had been marketing a dietary supplement containing a little-known amphetamine-like substance that was undetectable in drug tests prevalent at that time.

                The drug was first reported in the anti-doping domain last year when five Jamaican athletes were found positive. Male sprinters Yohan Blake, Marvin Anderson, Allodin Fothergill and Lanceford Spence and woman sprinter Sheri-Ann Brooks were initially reprieved by the hearing panel but on appeal, all except Brooks, were given three-month suspensions.

                As per Mohan’s view, the finding followed an analysis by the famous Don Catlin (who discovered the designer steroid, tetrahydrogestrinone, THG), who analysed the product, Ergopharm’s Ergolean AMP, as requested by the post which reimbursed Dr Catlin, who works at the WADA-accredited lab in Los Angeles.

                The drug found in the product by Dr Catlin was methylhexaneamine. Methylhexaneamine, a component of geranium oil, is now the ingredient of a variety of supplements, all easily available on the internet, and, according to sources, in the Indian market also. In capsule form, the medicine is available as Gernamine and Floradrene, among other names. The synonyms for methylhexaneamine include dimethylpentylamine and dimethylamylamine.

                Among its advantages, claimed by the companies, include powerful energy stimulation, increased metabolic rate, triggering of fat release and capacity to reduce weight, apart from ephedrine-like properties and that of general CNS stimulants.

                The Illinois chemist (Arnold), according to the post report, claimed on the Ergopharm Website that AMP gave dieters and athletes an alternative to ephedrine with fewer negative side effects. AMP has “adrenaline properties” and is “the most powerful weight tool you can purchase without a prescription,” Arnold stated on his site back in 2006.

                Among those serving a two-year suspension for a methylhexaneamine violation at present is a Korean distance runner, Lee Kyeong-Jae, who was reported for the offence in May this year. (HSB)

If most of the sportspersons are innocent or not aware of the banned substances then why they try to hide whenever WADA inspectors visit them. “Doping in India began as an institutionalised effort, when enterprising coaches took over the onerous task of making their wards champions through the doping route, and now sportspersons themselves do the “boosting” act to tone up their performances in international competitions,” said veteran sports commentator MS Unnikrishnan.

                “Irresistible rewards for winners and coaches, instant fame and recognition motivate sportspersons to resort to unfair means to win medals. This has now become almost a contagious disease, especially in power and endurance events like throwing, weightlifting, track and field events, boxing, etc,” he added.

                According to chef-de-mission of the Indian contingent for the Commonwealth games, Bhubaneswar Kalita: “Enough has been done by NADA and WADA to create awareness (about doping) among the players, including distribution of literature.”

                He asserted that a zero-tolerance attitude will be adopted to check doping in the Games and strict anti-doping measures were in place. National wrestling coach Jagminder Singh was upset that four of six of his boys have failed tests. “It is a shock for all of us and I feel the athletes must have taken these drugs unknowingly,” Kalita said.

                “Our wrestlers had been tested regularly and told of new banned substances, so this should not have happened,” veteran sports medicine expert Dr PSM Chandran, also echoed Jagminder’s sentiment saying it was rare for athletes across sports to use the same banned substance.

                “It could be that they were using the drug for some time but did not realise that it was now a banned substance,” he said adding: “It is not a hard drug and traces of it can even be found in some cooking oils.”

                Former Olympic athlete Ashwini Nachappa was more candid and forthcoming when she said that officials/Coaches should also blamed. “The results have been quite disappointing,” said the former sprinter “Not just athletes, but the coaches and administrators too need to take responsibility for this.”

                However to be fair to the National Sports Federation(NSF) they seemed to have anticipated the spectre of doping ahead of the Commonwealth Games and put in place a strict “dope test regime” But when doping is an “institutionalised effort”, as the motto seems to be to win medals at any cost, then it is pointless to put the entire blame on sportspersons who could be just pawns in the hands of ambitious sports officials and coaches despite their protestations of innocence.”

                However these dope tests failures have not came as surprise to the foreigners, as well-known sports journalist James Toney wrote under the headlines—”Sad inalienable truth of Indian sports doping”, “No sports in no country have such a pitiful record when it comes to combating doping. And yet here we are, on the eve of another Commonwealth Games and the sad script is being repeated all over again.”

                “Indian athletes are testing positive for banned stimulant methylhexaneamine, a commonly used nasal decongestant. It’s the same substance that controversially caught out four Jamaican sprinters before last year’s World Athletics Championships and was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list this year.”

                Officials expect to carry out 1,500 tests during next month’s Games—a sizeable increase on Melbourne four years ago. More than 450 doping control officers are now being trained, although some concern has been privately expressed about how sterile the doping control centres will be in each venue, claims organisers have dismissed as ‘nonsense’. ” Tests will be analysed at the WADA accredited laboratory in Delhi and don’t expect them to have nothing to report. Fair play to India’s anti-doping officials, they are certainly doing their job.”

By Harpal Singh Bedi







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