Other Sports

Secrecy should be the watchword

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By announcing that all the athletes who have qualified for the London Olympics or who will eventually make the squad were going to be tested in March-April and June-July, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has once again done great harm to its out-of-competition testing programme. “Secrecy” should be the watchword in any anti-doping testing programme. The NADA has not followed this principle ever since it redoubled its efforts in curbing doping practices among elite athletes following the ‘positive' tests returned by the country's top woman quarter-milers last June-July. Last June, the NADA announced in the media and then conducted “raids” at training centres at Patiala and Bangalore.

Everyone knew that the athletes had by then “cleared” their rooms of banned drugs and doubtful supplements. The UK Anti Doping (UKAD) announced its pre-Olympic testing plan last month, but wisely kept away from giving details about the number of times an athlete could be tested or the period during which they were going to be tested.

“Essentially there is no limit to the number of times we might test any individual athlete,” the UKAD announced. The NADA should also be having a similar programme provided it can trace the athlete's whereabouts.

The NADA in its three years of existence has not been able to make even a start in its testing based on registered pools and ‘whereabouts' programme.

That the NADA has so far been unable to test the woman 400m runner who could not be tested in the inter-State meet in Bangalore last June or later at Patiala, and the fact that it has also no tested even once any athlete from among the six suspended quarter-milers show how ineffective its out-of-competition testing programme has been.

Target-testing

The WADA Code (Articles 5.1.3 and 5.1.4) binds the anti-doping authorities to make target-testing a priority and to conduct testing on athletes serving a period of ineligibility or a provisional suspension. By and large the NADA has tried to register ‘numbers' in its testing programme.

The fact that out of 1483 samples collected out of competition in 2010 (of a total of 2684), just 12 turned up ‘positive' compared to 110 ‘positive' tests from in-competition tests proved how lop-sided the ratio has been.

A reversal of this ratio would be ideal, though we have to keep in mind the large number of ‘positive' results reported from competitions in non-Olympic sport like powerlifting, body-building and kabaddi in the NADA statistics.

The UK figure in comparison was 30 ‘positive' in all from 7611 samples during a 12-month period from April, 2010.Dope-testing at home should not be conducted to “avoid embarrassment” alone in the international arena.

Not many get caught any way in major global or regional meets and thus an Indian or anyone else not getting caught will not necessarily mean that their efforts were purely based on “hard work”.

The IAAF managed to catch just five dope cheats through three World championships from 2005 from 3207 tests. From 4770 tests in the Beijing Olympics, 14 ‘positive' cases were reported including five cases for CERA in post-Games re-testing.

Staggering statistics

In the IAAF's out-of-competition testing programme, only one Indian athlete (discus thrower Krishna Poonia in 2009) was tested during the 2008-2010 period.

That is a staggering piece of statistics for a country that has gone beyond the half-century mark in ‘positive' cases in athletics in three years of NADA testing. When we consider the three ‘positive' cases, out of 166 out-of-competition tests in athletics done by the NADA in 2010, the reality of the Indian situation comes into focus.

More than completing testing of all the members in the Olympic squad twice, the NADA would do well to target ‘high risk' sport like athletics, swimming and weightlifting relentlessly from now on, even prior to qualification of competitors, and also keep a watch on boxers and wrestlers who could be in contention for the Olympics.

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 1:49:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/secrecy-should-be-the-watchword/article2985008.ece

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