Anju Bobby George will forever have the disappointing feeling that she would have got independent India's first Olympic medal in athletics, had the sport been clean.
Her sixth place at the 2004 Athens Olympics long jump was upgraded to fifth after American Marion Jones confessed to taking drugs and years later, all the three medallists – Russians Tatyana Lebedeva, Irina Meleshina (nee Simagina) and Tatyana Kotova – failed dope tests though it did not cover the Athens period.
And now that she is the senior vice-president of the Athletics Federation of India, Anju is keen to lead the fight against doping.
“I am ready to be in the front in the fight against doping,” said Anju, the country's lone World Championships medallist (bronze, 2003 Worlds in Paris) in a chat with Sportstar .
A few years ago, India was third in the world list of countries with most doping cases. It is now seventh as per the World Anti-Doping Agency's December 2019 list but that could be because the country did not take enough number of tests or did not target prime suspects.
“We are on the edge of being disqualified for the number of athletes suspended for dope so we (the AFI) have zero tolerance towards doping and age fraud," she said.
“There are strict measures in place but everywhere in the world, this crime is happening. This is an individual sport and we can control the national camp but to check others who are outside, or in the school or college level is not easy.”
A former Asian Games and Asian champion, Anju feels the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) could be the most effective way to catch cheats.
“If you have taken any illegal substance during a certain period, there will be wide variations in your blood profile which will show in the ABP and you could be caught.”
Doping, she feels, often tends to pull one down.
“If we are performing in India with the support of some illegal substance, when we go for a major championship without that substance, that fear will be enough to pull us down. You will think that you would not be able to perform because you don't have the support of that particular substance,” she said.
“I did not have such fear when I was competing for I knew I was getting the results with my pure hard work and training.”