Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) is yet to start target testing, a fundamental instrument of testing within the World Anti-Doping Code.

It is also yet to get going with its ‘whereabouts' lists and testing though it had been functional since January, 2009, and has so far received details regarding 392 athletes in 13 disciplines.

At the end of the two-day conference of the Asia-Pacific Region Inter-Governmental meeting on doping in sports, the NADA Director-General, Rahul Bhatnagar, and the CEO of the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL), Injeti Srinivas, addressed a press conference on Tuesday, along with the WADA Director-General, David Howman.

Bhatnagar admitted that his teams were yet to visit the residences and private training bases of athletes, based on the information received through the ‘whereabouts' route.

Questionable practices

Training ‘at home' has become routine nowadays and there are constant reports of athletes indulging in questionable practices, away from the prying eyes of testers.

Target testing in the normal course would involve such athletes who are continuously staying away from camps and those who normally evade testers even in camps, apart from those who show abnormal improvement within a short period of time.

NADA teams do carry out tests periodically, but they are all being done at established training centres run by the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Reports trickling in from the NIS, Patiala, also suggest that, more often than not, testing teams fail to get those athletes who are top in their priority list.

Asked about testing athletes before going abroad, Bhatnagar could not provide a satisfactory answer.

Doubts are also being expressed about the need to send athletes to such centres in Eastern Europe, from where the coaches are mainly hired, on the excuse of weather, and sometimes better quality of food, when such facilities and such food could easily be made available at home. An athletics team was recently sent to even Malaysia for training.

Incidentally, the wing of the ministry that clears such tour proposals is also headed by Bhatnagar.

Bhatnagar said around 80 per cent of all the core probables preparing for the Commonwealth Games had been tested at least once till now.

In anti-doping parlance, it is important to note how frequently they have been tested rather than mere numbers since the crucial aspect always is whether the athlete could be tested during a cycle of dope-taking.

NADA and NDTL officials tried to allay the popular perception that cricketers were not being tested since they were yet to comply with ‘whereabouts' rules. Srinivas said that nearly 10 per cent of all in-competition tests involved cricketers.

However, they included testing in IPL. “We test whatever the BCCI sends to us,” he said. Even then the 10 per cent number quoted was news since IPL, according to some observers, only had a very minimum number of tests this year.

Still to respond

Bhatnagar confirmed that the BCCI was yet to respond to letters from NADA regarding the National ‘whereabouts' pool.

The BCCI had been defying the authority of NADA despite it being a fully Government-supported and recognised organisation. Howman said the next Code compliance exercise would be taken up in November, 2011, and only then would he be able to tell whether the International Cricket Council (ICC) had been compliant or not. It was not in the fully-compliant list last time.

Howman saw encouragement in the recent strides taken by the ICC in the anti-doping sphere.

Asked about the implications of the ICC continuing to flout WADA norms and still having cricket in this year's Asian Games, Howman said it would be up to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to take up.

Compliance, he pointed out, was not just dependent on one aspect of the Code, say ‘whereabouts' requirements, but involved a variety of aspects.

Asked about the inordinate delays in disposing of cases by NADA and disciplinary panels, Bhatnagar said his body was trying to cope.

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