Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

2023 could be worse, athletics stil on top

With the Paris Olympics just about 100 days away, Indian authorities must wake up before it is too late.

There seems no end to top athletes testing positive for banned substances. Recently, top national and international athletes figured on the list of provisional suspension of the National Anti-Doping Agency.

Though the list is yet to be updated on the website, the names and figures are quite alarming, especially for athletics.And now there are reports that a top athlete, a thrower, joined the list for testing for a substance used for treating infertility.

Yet, if the provisional suspension list is an indication, doping is as believed to be prevalent in top-flight athletics. Top names, considered to be up-and-coming stars including steeplechase runner Mohammed Nur Hasan, have tested positive as per NADA’s provisionally suspended list. The Federation Cup champion impressed all with his run of 8:30.56s last year. National record holder Avinash Sable was the only athlete to have run faster than him. As many as 44 names were added to the provisional suspension list as of April 5, 2024.

As usual, athletics finds itself on top of the provisional suspension list with 16 names. Murali Kumar Gavit, a 2019 Asian Championship silver medallist in 10,000m, is another big fish in the doping net. Other names include World Cross Country Championships participants Hemraj Gurjar and Anjali Kumari. Weightlifting is the next with 13 defaults. Long distance runner from Tamil Nadu, G Lakshmanan, was suspended for two years post Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) hearing. Sprinter Himani Chandel was handed a four-year ban.

What seems more worrying is the positive cases among minors. There are about 17 minors out of which 14 of them had taken the Case Resolution Agreement route for a three-year suspension. As pointed out in these columns, minors usually do not take banned substances on their own. Onus should be on the parents and coaches to keep them clean and when they test positive, they should be questioned as well.

If India’s 125 Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) out of 3865 samples in 2022 World Anti Doping Agency’s Testing Figures Report was not embarrassing enough, going by the 2023 numbers available on the NADA website, things are expected to get worse next year. The numbers of positive cases may go well past 130. There are at least 70 names who have taken three-year suspension under Article 10.8.1 & 8.3 of NADA. As per names whose ineligibility period starts in 2023 in the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel, the list is about 60. In 2022, as per the WADA report, there were 125 positive cases recorded by anti-doping watchdog in India, NADA, out of which at least 45 are from athletics. In terms of percentage, as reported by this newspaper, at 3.2 per cent NADA recorded the highest conversion rate. And minors testing positive remains a concern.

A clearer picture can be seen when we take the breakup. Going by the list of ineligible athletes for 2022 on the NADA website, about 47 athletes have tested positive, followed by wrestling with 18 positives and weightlifting about 17. Even in 2022, there were at least three minors in athletics. There was one in wrestling while there were two in weightlifting.

When it comes to conversion rate, athletics had collected close to 1000 samples out and positives were about 4.6 per cent.

Since wrestling collected about 285 samples, the conversion stood at 6.3 per cent. Judo also is another sport that seemed to have returned positive in alarming numbers.

With the Paris Olympics just about 100 days away, Indian authorities must wake up before it is too late.

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The New Indian Express