Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Union Sports Ministry has reconstituted the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA), enlarging its structure, but its credibility as an ‘independent’ agency to formulate and execute anti-doping policies will continue to be questioned because of the presence of a large number of members from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and National Federations as well as the ministry itself in the organisation.

Formed in November, 2005, NADA should have been in the forefront of the anti-doping campaign in this country by now, but only last May was the governing body set up and now it has been revamped. The official announcement was made on Sunday.

Expanded general body

The original body had a 12-member governing board, while the latest general body has 17 members. There are six IOA Executive Committee members in the body including President Suresh Kalmadi and Medical Committee Chairman Dr. Manmohan Singh.

There are five from the Sports Ministry, including the Union Sports Minister who will be the Chairman, one representative of the Health Ministry (a welcome addition), two sportspersons (Shiny Wilson and M.A.K. Pataudi), one lawyer, one independent scientist (Prof (Dr.) P. Rama Rao, Director, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research) and the Director-General, NADA.

The Governing body and the Executive panel will comprise nine and six members respectively. The Government and its agencies will have more say in these bodies.

The Union Sports Minister, M.S. Gill, explained the other day that he was not in a position to immediately bring in drastic changes in the composition of the body before amending the articles of association as finalised in 2005, but he assured that he would include people from the scientific community to the extent possible.

Thus the inclusion of Dr. Rama Rao in the Governing board and that of Dr. P. Ramachandran, EMR, DGHS, in the Executive panel, should be considered steps towards making the body more ‘independent’.

The presence of so many IOA Executive members in the NADA in itself will raise questions of credibility, but more glaring are the inclusions of the IOA Secretary-General and three representatives of the National Federations in the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) Society.

A body that should have largely included people from the scientific and medical community with nominal representation from the Sports Ministry and Health Ministry, apart from any autonomous agency, will have, among others, the Director General, Health Services, one jurist, four nominated members (Prof S.D. Seth of ICMR, Clinical Pharmacology, Prof Y.K. Gupta, Pharmacology, AIIMS; Prof. N.K. Ganguly, former DG, ICMR and Dr. Manmohan Singh of IOA) and IOA Secretary-General Randhir Singh. Hockey Olympian M.P. Ganesh (eminent sportsperson), Col. P.K. Muralidharan Raja (boxing federation), Lalit Bhanot (athletics federation) and Baljit Singh Sethi (shooting federation) have also been named in the NDTL Society.

A 12-member governing body has also been formed. The question that comes up about NADA as well as NDTL is whether there is any clash of interests among those who have been named in the two panels vis a vis anti-doping measures including out-of-competition testing and results management.

Barring the disqualifications handed out by the IOA during the last two National Games, there has been no transparency in dealing with ‘positive’ cases coming up every year in Indian sports, in tests done at the Delhi laboratory, which, according to the Sports Ministry is due to gain accreditation by September.

Out-of-competition testing will lose its credibility if there is even a shade of conflicting interest. Agencies including the ministry, the federations and the Sports Authority of India (SAI), involved in the funding and promotion of sports activities, will be scrutinising improvement in performances and targets set and achieved. They will also be in charge of testing, as they are now. What additional role can NADA play then?

There is widespread belief in Indian sports that doping has become essential for improvement in many disciplines. Unannounced testing will lose its ‘sting’ in such a situation if bodies formed are not completely independent of ‘elite sports’ promotion. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prefers a more independent structure for the National Anti Doping Organisation (NADO).

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