As the distance runners entered the home stretch in the men’s 5000m at the recent National Open in Bengaluru, strangely, they decided to stick together.
Nobody appeared keen to win the race, perhaps worried that they would have to undergo a dope test if they did. And they almost finished as a bunch.
Days before that, many athletes suddenly vanished when the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) officials turned up at the Delhi State championships.
In the end, just one athlete ran the 100-meter final, and a steeple chaser continued to run even after crossing the finish line to evade dope testers. Many skipped the medal ceremony on that dramatic day as dope testers kept a close watch.
While Indian athletics looks rosy and promising after the fine Asian Games show, there is also the other dark side which is showing up its ugly head more and more.
“I think everyone is making too much out of it. There is an issue, yes. Is it a big issue? Very big issue. But by keeping on making a big issue out of it, going to international media and seeing which will get India banned is not what we are looking at,” said Adille Sumariwalla, the president of the Athletics Federation of India, in the chat with Sportstar on the sidelines of the National Games.
“I’m getting flak from World Athletics, from AIU (Athletics Integrity Unit), from WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). What can I do, I’m not the police. I can’t arrest them, I don’t have any powers to do any of that. My only power is reporting.”
Incidentally, World Athletics and the AIU have sough a report from the AFI on the Delhi fiasco.
“Now we have an enquiry commission, set up by the chairman of the disciplinary committee, which will look into it. NADA is also looking into it,” said Sumariwalla who is also the vice president of World Athletics.
And what about the Bengaluru drama? “NADA was there, let it take suo moto action, they have the power,” he said.
He explained that the increasing number of athletes testing positive is because there are more tests now.
“Today, I’ve increased to nearly 1500 tests. Before I became president, there were 100 tests. So, more people will get caught. Even if you say 10 percent are getting caught, that’s 150. Out of 100, 10 will get caught. And India will look very good. But that doesn’t solve my problem; you have to take the bull by its horns, and that is what I’m fighting day and night,” said Sumariwalla.
“See, I can stop testing; for me, it’s very simple. I will not test very good, I will not have the big numbers.”
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