Ugly run: On keeping sports clean

Sport is beautiful only when it is clean, and athletes compete in safe and fair ways

June 11, 2020 12:02 am | Updated 12:44 am IST

A year ago, her story moved many. When Gomathi Marimuthu spoke about her struggle following the death of her father and coach in succession, the 800m gold she won then at the Asian Championships in Doha appeared to have a lot of sparkle. But all that changed when reports emerged a month later about the middle distance runner from Tiruchirappalli testing positive for a banned substance twice , both at Doha and the Federation Cup in Patiala, an event prior to the Asian Championships. The latest verdict from the International Disciplinary Tribunal which has punished the 31-year-old with probably a career-ending four-year ban , will also strip her of the Asian gold. It should not come as a surprise as four of her urine samples had the presence of 19 Norandrosterone (19-NA), a metabolite of nandrolone, which is prohibited at all times. However, what remains strange is the two-month delay by the National Dope Testing Laboratory, which is now suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the National Anti-Doping Agency in bringing out the results of Gomathi’s sample taken during the Federation Cup. Had it come earlier, she would not have gone to Doha and it would have saved the country a lot of embarrassment. Meanwhile, Gomathi has claimed innocence and suggested that the steroid may have been accidentally imbibed through some non-vegetarian food she had consumed.

Sport is beautiful only when clean athletes compete. However poor an athlete is, a sprint loses its charm when a dubious candidate walks away with the gold. It is also unfair to clean athletes and their years of sacrifice. Every time a big fish is caught, it spreads awareness about the perils of taking illegal drugs and goes a small way in cleaning up sport. The temptations to cheat, especially in India, are many, with government jobs, promotions and heavy cash prizes on offer for medallists in major Games. During these COVID-19 times, with many national camps closing their doors to outsiders, there is a feeling that it will be tough to test athletes and the next two years are crucial with events such as the Olympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games lined up. But WADA and NADA have brought out guidelines for testing during this phase. Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, emphatically said: “There is monitoring going on all the time by major national anti-doping agencies, AIU (Athletics Integrity Unit) and WADA. The days of adding up a number of tests is long gone. Intelligent testing and intelligent analysis are more important now than they have ever been.” Clearly, NADA has to do more so that India is not tainted with drug violations and Gomathi’s case is the latest wake-up call.


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