A few recent disciplinary and appeal panel decisions having stressed the importance of educating the athletes in its anti-doping campaign, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has come up with.
In what could have been a simple list of do's and don'ts from an anti-doping perspective, the NADA has gone beyond its domain and issued advice on a variety of topics including nutrition, leadership, morals, team work and life's philosophy.
Some of the do's are logical and appropriate, like “athletes must know about the current prohibited substances” or “always take treatment from (a) recognized doctor” or “take the doctor into confidence and tell him that you are a sportsperson” or “read the ingredient labels”.
Some others wander into the domain of the nutritionist and/or medical practitioners: Take variety of food from the “food pyramid” daily, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, lean meat; increase fresh fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates; eat lots of nutrient dense snacks (peanut butter, crackers, bananas, bagels); consume food low in fat; drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. A few others touch a philosophical note.
For example, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well — work hard, gain perfection” or “teamwork is the key to success both in your sport and life.”
The ‘don'ts' also assume philosophical shades at various points, but what strikes one most is the rather confusing statement given at point No. 2: “Should not take any food supplements on their own from local market without verifying it.”
Does this mean only “local market” stuff is discouraged? Could it be that what is bought from England or China, for example, could be okay? Today, the internet is full of websites selling dietary supplements. There are backdoor channels, too, that can get athletes supplements from abroad.
Instead of lengthening the list with such thoughts as “do not talk back or shout at coaches or officials” or “do not get discouraged, keep working and you'll succeed” or “do not forget, at all times, to thank all those who have helped you along the way” or “do not lose your faith in yourself”, the NADA could have cautioned the athletes about the use of common drugs and the risks in using food supplements more forcefully.
For example, there is no mention of a “sports medicine doctor” in the entire list running into 49 points. One would have thought that the advice of a specialist in the field, rather than just a doctor, would have been of prime importance in this area.
There is no mention of a “team doctor” or a government-appointed doctor at an authorized training centre being important in getting any clarification regarding a drug or supplement.
The caution on dietary supplements misses the fundamental points issued by anti-doping agencies the world over:
That the anti-doping body discourages use of supplements; that supplements could be contaminated with banned substances; that they could lead to ‘positive' drug tests; that athletes are ultimately responsible for what they ingest and that a mis-labelled supplement is not an adequate defence in a doping hearing.