SPORT

India duty-bound to test in accredited labs

K.P. Mohan

NEW DELHI: Can the tests done at the Dope Control Centre (DCC) continue to be of relevance in India's so-called anti-doping campaign? Has the situation changed following the signing of the Copenhagen Declaration by the Union Government last January? Will the DCC, now in the process of getting World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) accreditation, be able to continue screening Indian competitors going abroad for major international competitions as a precautionary measure just as it has been doing all these years?

The situation has indeed changed drastically following India signing the Copenhagen Declaration on doping in sports and it will change further as and when the UNESCO Convention on doping gets adopted.

In the short-term perspective, however, what will be of great significance to India is WADA's impending stipulation that the DCC stop testing competitors going abroad as a precautionary measure since it was in direct contravention of WADA Code of ethics.

Little relevance

For all practical purposes, the tests being done at the DCC will be of little relevance unless they are being done under WADA's proficiency testing programme, as part of the accreditation process, or else for other academic purposes. For, the Union Government and its agencies including the Sports Authority of India (SAI) are duty bound to carry out the tests at accredited laboratories after signing the Copenhagen Declaration; so, too, the Indian

Olympic Association (IOA) and its affiliated units including National federations.

"As you are aware, the Indian government has signed the Copenhagen Declaration and the Indian Olympic committee has signed the World Anti-Doping Code. In doing so, India agreed to abide with the principles of the World Anti-Doping Code, which states: Article 6.1 Use of approved laboratories: "Doping control samples shall be analysed only in

WADA-accredited laboratories or as otherwise approved by WADA... " So wrote

Frederic Donze, Manager, Media Relations, WADA, in response to a query from

The Hindu, last Wednesday.

Mr. Donze also made several other points in an e-mail on Friday, in reply to another set of questions, some of which were:

On DCC continuing to test, including testing just prior to major international competitions: "Since this laboratory has not yet entered WADA's accreditation process, we have no jurisdiction over it. But as soon as the lab has started the accreditation process, we will remind them that WADA's Code of ethics for the laboratories prohibits a laboratory from testing athletes by way of precaution before international events."

On whether Indian authorities can continue to test sportspersons at the DCC as part of their dope-control measures: " WADA recognises only results of analyses made by its accredited laboratories. As you know, governments will have to formally recognize the World Anti-Doping Code by signing the International Convention against Doping in Sport being prepared under the aegis of UNESCO, prior to the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

Legally binding

The UNESCO Convention is a legally binding document for governments, and as soon as

India will ratify it India will have to fully comply with the Code.

"If the Indian sporting bodies are under the umbrella of the National Olympic Committee — which has adopted the Code — they should send their samples to WADA-accredited labs. This said, this situation will be fully formalized when India will ratify the UNESCO Convention (which should be adopted by UNESCO General Conference in October)."

On what was the basic change from the situation earlier: "The situation of the lab has not changed, but India's situation has. To sign the Declaration means that the government accepts the Code as the basis of the fight against doping in sport... "

Time and again, the Union Sports Ministry had so proudly claimed that every Indian sportsperson being entered in major international competitions was being dope-tested before departure and then only cleared. Yet, not many among the 257 positives between 1991 and 2000 and another batch of 181 positives between 2001 and 2004, were sanctioned.

The DCC tests have now become irrelevant since no follow-up action can be taken. Pre-departure, precautionary tests have always been taboo and now the lab will be told so in so many words by the body that has to grant it the accreditation. The legal position regarding the tests done in Delhi had in any case been uncertain. Now there should be more clarity.

"We have to test 1500 samples every year as per WADA stipulation," said a DCC spokesman on Friday. That stipulation will come only when the laboratory gets accredited, not before. And that process, according to Mr. Donze, might take anything between 12 and 24 more months.

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