Friday, July 22, 2011

Sportspersons and Doping Shame!

By : PK Khurana
(Pramod Krishna Khurana)

प्रमोद कृष्ण खुराना

Pioneering Alternative Journalism in India

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Failure of the country’s leading athletes in doping test has the nation seething with anger and shame. One after the other, sportspersons are failing the dope test. Like Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji, too, was found to have used anabolic steroids. Unfortunately, the shocking revelation comes with a realisation that perhaps the sporting careers of these athletes are now on the verge of collapse.

In case the athletes are found guilty during further investigations as well, they would not be allowed to participate in the forthcoming Olympics.

It was not very long ago when ‘Golden Girls’ Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose, Ashwini along with Manjeet Kaur, were the toast of the nation when they won gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and later repeated their sterling performance at Asian Games in China. The nation had pinned great hopes on the girls to win glory in London Olympics next year. However, with the doping scandal casting its ugly shadow on the athletes’ names, India’s hopes have dashed yet again.

Since the inception of the National Anti-Doping Agency in 2009, out of a total of 6,607 sportspersons, as many as 242 have been found to be guilty of doping.

In 2010, 12 sportspersons were found guilty of using banned drugs just ahead of the Commonwealth Games at New Delhi.

Shockingly, since 2001, as many as 25 Indian weightlifters have been pronounced guilty of taking banned drugs. The menace was found to be so widespread among Indian sportspersons that members of the Indian Weightlifters’ Federation were barred from Commonwealth Games of 2006. Even during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the weightlifters were allowed to participate only after paying hefty fines.

Ukrainian coach Yuri Ogorodnik was shown the door after he admitted to have advised Mandeep Kaur, Sini and Ashwini to take dietary supplements. Sports Minister Ajay Maken has assured of stringent action against all accused. However, it remains to be seen who all make it to Maken’s list of “accused”.

Legendary athlete ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh, gold medallist at the Asian and Commonwealth Games 1958, has said in a statement that along with strict action against the dope cheats, all cash incentives and awards given to them should be taken back as well to serve as a deterrent to other athletes. However, there are many grey areas that lie between perceptions and truth. Classic cases of such grey areas are perhaps the sportspersons who have been pronounced guilty of doping.

According to Rahul Bhatnagar, director, World Anti-Doping Agency, there is a detailed list of banned substances on the agency’s official website. However, fact of the matter is that the list is in English, a language that is alien to numerous Indian sportspersons. Moreover, the website uses scientific names for banned substances, which are very different from the generic names used by the manufacturers of dietary supplements and drugs.

Quite often, a banned substance can be found in over 200 drugs with absolutely no indication of its presence on the packaging of the drug. Even the official website of the National Anti-Doping Agency does not specify the commercial names of drugs in which these banned substances are used. The list is so long that it is almost impossible for even a qualified doctor to keep a record of all the names and expecting the same from a sportsperson would not be fair. The loopholes in the system make sportspersons fall prey to them.

At National Institute of Sports, Patiala, sportspersons are given special anti-doping lectures. However, with English as the medium of instruction, the lectures fail to serve the purpose as most of the players are not very well educated. Others come from areas like South and North-East India and do not even understand Hindi. Hence, it is extremely unfair to expect the sportspersons to have a deep understanding of the list of banned substances.

Another important factor is to have a proper team of physiotherapist, masseur, recovery expert and specialist doctors, along with appropriate arrangements for ice-bath for the players. Only then will the sportspersons be able to get proper physical training else they will suffer serious injuries.

Unfortunately, the Indian sports scene is marred by an acute lack of proper facilities for the players. In such scenario, the sportspersons have to depend upon the advice and guidance of senior players, private doctors and experts. And when they fail the dope test, no one, but they themselves, stand to lose.

Sports is no child’s play. It takes years of hard work, dedication and discipline to become a professional sportsperson of repute. It is all the more difficult for women sportspersons who have their own families as well as their husband’s families to take care of. No player intentionally ruins his/ her sporting career.

Sports Minister Ajay Maken should understand that not much can be achieved by giving sweeping statements about punishing dope cheats. There is an urgent need to revamp and reform the Indian sports scene if the sporting fraternity is to be purged of the dope shame which has been haunting the country for ages now. Else, hundreds of sportspersons will continue to fall prey to the loopholes in the system and ruin their sporting careers, bringing shame to their motherland in the bargain. 

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Pioneeering Alternative Journalism in India : PK Khurana

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