Indian authorities mull multi-pronged approach to counter doping

The proposal for legislation to criminalise doping was highlighted as a measure to fight the menace. Also, all leading employers of sportspersons were being asked to take “stringent disciplinary action” against them when they were caught in the doping net.

Injeti Srinivas was at pains to counter allegations of corruption in the National Dope Testing Laboratory.   -  K. Murali Kumar

The All India Council of Sports, which met under the chairmanship of Prof. Vijay Kumar Malhotra in the Indian capital, has taken a serious note of the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) figuring in the news, and the allegation of the president of the Athletics Federation of India about urine samples getting swapped for a fee.

The Secretary of Sports, Union Sports Ministry, and the Director General of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) - Injeti Srinivas -said he was surprised by the allegation and stressed that the National Sports Federations were the actual “custodian of sportspersons” and the SAI was only a “facilitator.”

The proposal for legislation to criminalise doping was highlighted as a measure to fight the menace. Also, all leading employers of sportspersons were being asked to take “stringent disciplinary action” against them when they were caught in the doping net.

National badminton coach P. Gopi Chand suggested the setting up of a round-the-clock helpline facility by NADA to clarify matters of dope for the sportspersons before they took any medicine. He said that a woman athlete took medication for an upset stomach and got caught in dope.

Srinivas clarified it was difficult for NADA to perform such a task and said that each National sports federation could have an expert who could be contacted for clarification on the subject. He was also at pains to counter the allegations of corruption in the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL).

Testing and awareness

Pawan Aggarwal, the CEO of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), said the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was ready by which food supplements would be tested in collaboration with NADA.

Olympic finalist and currently a leading coach in athletics, P. T. Usha, said short video clips, projecting the ill-effects of doping, were ready to be aired on television, when Prof. Malhotra requested the Director General of Doordarshan, Surpiya Sahu, to create awareness about menace of doping.

Further on the subject, Prof. Malhotra requested the Doordarshan DG to revive the telecast of semifinals and final matches of all national championships and pay some funds to the national sports federations for the same. When P. T. Usha pointed at the difficulties of two “dope collecting officials” dealing with a large number of sportspersons in a meet, possibly leading to interchange of samples, Srinivas explained that the officials were being changed regularly to avoid “vested interests.”

Srinivas said the idea of appointing independent observers to supervise “dope collection” was being contemplated. P. T. Usha defended the idea of athletes training on their own with their coaches and said NADA could send officials to have the athletes tested regularly wherever they trained.

On the important aspect of Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 28 percent on sports goods, and the request for bringing it down to five percent, the Sports Secretary responded by saying the matter was being taken up with the Secretary of Expenditure. It was clarified that customs duty waiver was already in force for imported sports goods.

Prof. Malhotra said the concerned ministries have already been requested through the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for the grant of Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) facilities to sportspersons and that he would take up the matter with the Prime Minister to initiate the process, at least for the sports award winners.

Against betting

The treasurer of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the president of the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF), Anil Khanna suggested that betting should not be allowed in the country in any form, legal or otherwise, as it would lead to compromising the integrity of sportspersons. He mentioned the example of Italy where a city-level player also got a “paltry sum” to compromise the result of a match. He supported the lottery system as followed by United Kingdom as the right way forward.

Prof. Malhotra said there was encouraging response from the various Sports Promotion Boards, like the Railways, Petroleum, Services, etc. regarding the details of efforts made by them to promote sports. He suggested to the Sports secretary that each board could be given a task to promote a specific sport, to take it to Olympic standards, and avoid duplicity of efforts and expenditure.