There is a genuine concern now

Published : May 17, 2003 00:00 IST

Alarming indeed is the proliferation of doping in Indian sport. The revelation, after the National Games in Hyderabad, was a rude shock to the followers of the game.

Alarming indeed is the proliferation of doping in Indian sport. The revelation, after the National Games in Hyderabad, was a rude shock to the followers of the game. This was against the backdrop of the controversy involving Sunita Rani at the Busan Asiad and the two weightlifters at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Now there is a genuine concern, whether sport in India is clean.

The fact that Suresh Kalmadi, President, Indian Olympic Association, prescribes a time frame of 2005 to make sport free of doping is in itself an admission of administrative failure.

Compelled perhaps by the ramifications and the sullying image of the country in the international arena, the institutions connected with sport are now eager to clear the air.

It is a fact that these agencies, notably, the Indian Olympic Association, remained impervious to the warning signals from the media as well as from informed and honest sports medicine experts.

It looked as though these agencies were only interested to see Indians get more medals, adopting any means as long as they remained out of the net. In fact, the administrators worked overtime to cover up the issue rather taking action against the offenders.

Whatever the outcome of Sunita Rani's case, the Busan episode attracted adverse international attention. Now there are definite indications that the international community is quite sceptical about India's claim as an emerging sports power in the region.

It will be wrong to assume that India stands isolated in the sinister world of doping. Almost every nation is haunted by the fear of drugs in sport. There is considerable focus on the subject in every conceivable forum. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is now crusading to evolving a new world order to ensure that sport remained drug free. It is also working on a universal code of punishment.

At the moment, penalties related to drug offences vary, and each federation has its set of rules and regulations. In fact in the recent WADA meeting in Copenhagen, Jacques Rogge, President, IOC had warned the federations which take a lenient view of doping like FIFA and UCI would have to forego their places in the Olympics. "For those organisations which do not accept the code there should be no place in the Olympic Games," Rogge warned.

What has added a note of poignancy to the whole spectrum of drugs were the documents released by Dr. Wade Exum, Director of USOC Drug Control, alleging the cover up by officials of more than 100 positive tests, which included celebrities like Carl Lewis. Apart from creating a sensation worldwide, Exum's papers evoked no critical response from International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). However, the revelations confirmed that doping is causing enormous harm to sports the world over. The horrors of doping through a systematic programme, fine tuned by medical personnel of the then East Germany, are a classic example of this.

Undeniably, the time has come for the international community to stage an all out war to eliminate drugs from sport. For years, the IOC is addressing itself to the problems, which compelled the agencies to launch a crusade, ever since the Ben Johnson episode came to light. The Canadian was stripped of the 100m gold medal in the Seoul Olympiad in 1988. It is not that IOC geared itself only in the late Eighties; Lord Killanin, who took over the IOC in 1972, underlined the need to fight the menace when commercialism in sport was at a nascent stage. The Lord termed a drugged sportsperson, "as a chemical athlete."

High rewards of cash and fame probably prompt the sportspersons to take up the easy route to success, with active encouragement from coaches and medical experts. Charlie Francis and Dr. Jamie Astaphan, the coach and doctor of Ben Johnson respectively were projected as the cause behind Johnson's fate of ruined career, notwithstanding the extraordinary skills of the athlete.

There is realisation now that no effort and money should be spared to fight doping. The IOC needs to be strengthened in its crusade against this menace. Agencies like WADA should be encouraged to plug all loopholes so that there is no escape route for the cheating sportsperson. Offenders often plead innocence. But Dick Pound, Chairman, WADA, has the answer: " Inadvertent use is a complete nonsense. The offence is the presence of a banned substance in your system. Now, if a Nazi frogman abducted you and injected you against your will, then you might have a case."

Strong words, but the message is clear as crystal for the offenders. The onus lies with the performers whatever is the discipline.

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