The Indian doping scene is getting murkier by the day. Since last year, high-profile cases have tumbled out of the closet, especially in athletics. Star quarter-miler MR Poovamma, Asian Games 4x400m gold medallist Shivpal Singh, second-best javelin thrower after Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, Aishwarya B, the long jumper who had the second-best effort after 2003 World Championships medallist, Anju Bobby George, discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur who finished sixth at the Tokyo Olympics last year, sprinters S Dhanalakshmi and M V Jilna are a few prominent names who tested positive for banned substances and are serving suspensions.
If random names used to surface earlier, this time, a host of top athletes, national campers and otherwise, young and old, figure on the list, revealing how deep the rot is. Interestingly, the athletes were tested by domestic and international (Athletics Integrity Unit) agencies. The high-profile cases indicate that the National Anti-Doping Agency has started testing top athletes and is serious about catching offenders. However, this is just the start.
National Sports Federations, too, must also ensure that not just the athletes but the coaches and other support staff are made accountable. Another recent trend is the use of banned EPO (Erythropoietin), which produces more blood cells and helps endurance athletes reduce fatigue and recover faster. In a recent provisionally suspended list of NADA, there were four EPO cases involving random athletes. And then, there is the use of human growth hormone (HGH). This can be alarming for substances that don’t usually have a high number of testing.
Doping has been a dominant theme in Indian sports, especially in athletics, weightlifting and power-lifting, but now it appears to have permeated into disciplines like boxing, wrestling and judo. There are a few cases in precision sports, like shooting and archery. With more money and job opportunities in sports, athletes are taking to methods that are not only banned in sports but are not conducive to their health. India has been on top of the infamous list of the World Anti-Doping Agency for dope offences for quite some time. The NADA has shown intent, but to reduce doping, all stakeholders must come together, especially the athletes and their coaches. The Anti-Doping Bill, which has got Parliament’s approval, gives more legal teeth to NADA and its officials. Whether or not it will help reduce doping, only time can tell.