CHENNAI: THE first page Google throws up to the query ‘weightlifting + doping’ tells you everything you need to know about the sport’s chequered history when it comes to its association with one of the sport’s darkest arts.
Even by its inglorious standards, August 24, 2016, was groundhog day for international weightlifting. Eleven medallists at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, including three from China who won gold, had failed retests.
Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF), too, has enjoyed its share of the spotlight. It had been banned in the past by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). On Monday, as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) dropped its 2015 Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) report, the Indian body had its own version of groundhog day.
Out of a total of 238 ADRVs in weightlifting, India itself accounts for 56, 23.52%. That’s a ridiculously high number for a sport that has been in many metaphorical WADA watchlists. It’s not easy to spin this one way or the other but a senior IWF official opts to look at the silver lining. “Over the past five years, we have had no issues at the international level,” the source told Express. “It’s only at the junior and the university levels that the problem persists.”
Ashok Ahuja, a former head of sports medicine at NIS Patiala, echoes those sentiments. “There have to be more education initiatives done at the grassroots level because there is an enormous amount (of doping) going on there.” There is also, according to Ahuja, an inherent doping problem that the sport refuses to shake off. “Given it’s a power sport, the extensive use of anabolic steroids are prevalent.”
With respect to the 56 examples of ADRVs, he placed the blame squarely on not enough lessons being learnt. “I have come across a couple of reports which said that only eight samples were taken during the Nationals that were held four months ago. So with very testing, people are more than willing to take their chances.” However, the senior IWLF official refuted those claims. “I am sure the number is more than eight. According to the usual norm, NADA would have collected at least 25-30 samples.”
However, the source confirmed that the body cannot go on for much longer without ignoring the sheer magnitude of these numbers. “We will do everything in our power to ensure this doesn’t occur. We have also been doing a lot to spread awareness against the ills of doping activity. We will make sure that in future events, every athlete has been cleared by NADA before they participate in any event, and have already sent letters regarding the same to each State association.”
Time, as always, will be the best judge of this particular proposal.