Indian cricket has never had any kind of drug problem. But a bunch of hugely spoilt cricketers and a high and mighty Board of Control for Cricket in India have come together, in an ill-informed and irrational way, to challenge a crucial provision in the World Anti-Doping Code. In the process, they have sent out a misleading message to the international sports community. At the centre of the controversy is a clause in the 2009 International Cricket Council anti-doping code that demands select players to submit their ‘whereabouts’ to the ICC three months in advance. The ‘whereabouts’ rules, on the lines of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s revised Code, also require players to keep a 60-minute slot every day through the year at a chosen venue for out-of-competition testing, an important chore in the anti-doping domain. Failure can lead to suspension. Although doping may involve only a minuscule percentage of cricketers, recent cases have revealed that the international game is not wholly ‘clean.’ Given the fact that the International Olympic Committee adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards doping in sports and the ICC has serious ambitions of pursuing the case of cricket as an Olympic sport, it was a logical step for cricket’s apex body to accede to the Code in 2006.
It is true that there have been protests from several sports personalities, including Rafael Nadal, who think the new ‘whereabouts’ rules are too invasive. But a large majority, led by Roger Federer, have come out in support, with the all-time tennis great famously remarking: “You’re not going to catch them by ringing up and saying, ‘Look, I’d like to test you maybe in two days.’ The guy is cheating and they are smart, right?” Union Sports Minister M.S. Gill, keen to put India in the forefront of the anti-doping campaign, must be strongly supported in his principled stand that the cricketers cannot be exceptions. The BCCI, on the other hand, has exposed itself to ridicule by conceding that it did not have a clue about the ‘whereabouts’ rules until recently. Privacy and security are the main planks on which the players and the BCCI have based their arguments for defying the ICC. But then what about the hundreds of top sport stars who have signed up despite such concerns? WADA, established in 1999 at the initiative of the IOC as a Swiss private law foundation, is (as its profile at www.wada-ama.org makes clear) “composed and funded equally by the sports movement and governments of the world...to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against doping in sport in all its forms.” The additional teeth the agency and its Code have gained following the adoption of 2005 UNESCO Convention against Doping in Sport by more than 115 countries, including India, should help it redouble its efforts. The Indian cricket establishment would be stupid not to fall in line.