Tuesday, Apr 08, 2003
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Sports : General
By K.P. Mohan
``No one will be spared'' is an oft-repeated rhetoric of the IOA big-wigs. Now, they have the chance to show that no one will actually be spared.
At least they have to pursue the cases to the logical end with the concerned federations since the IOA itself has very limited role to play, barring the withdrawal of medals or annulment of results, once the positives are reported.
With the IOA Secretary-General, Randhir Singh, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) being recently appointed a foundation member of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), considerable amount of interest will be generated in the coming days about the manner in which the IOA pursues the positive cases.
Of the 22 positive cases from the 465 samples collected from Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, athletics and weightlifting, the two disciplines that generally dominate the doping scenario in India, occupy the top two slots, with eight and seven cases respectively.
Three are from boxing, a sport not generally associated with doping in the Indian context, and one each from cycling, rowing, swimming and, quite surprisingly, volleyball.
The type of banned drugs that had been detected is not known yet, but the procedures, though delayed already, would be set rolling very soon, IOA sources said on Monday. It is to be seen how sincere the IOA and the federations will be in tackling this topic this time, keeping in mind the abysmal record they have in this sphere in the recent past.
Ninteen positives were reported from the National Games in Punjab in 2001 including five cases in athletics and six in weightlfting. There were three from fencing and one from kabaddi among other cases.
Barring those in weightlifting, where there were a few suspensions, there is no known instance of any action having been taken in respect of the positives from the 2001 National Games. There was a complaint that the results were intimated very late, leaving little scope for action.
Such being the record of the IOA and the National federations in respect of the National Games, not to speak of the other innumerable instances of positive results turned in at National championships, there is scepticism among the anti-doping lobby about the fate that awaits the latest bunch of dopers.
It may be recalled that the Sports Authority of India (SAI) had submitted an affidavit in the Delhi High Court, in connection with the Sunita Godara case, that there had been 257 positives during a nine-year period since the dope control lab started testing urine samples. Only a little more than 10 per cent of those cases were sanctioned or taken up.
This is a pitiable record for the IOA and the federations as well as the SAI and the Union Sports Ministry that support Olympic sport in this country.
No amount of statements, coming either from the ministry or the IOA, will convince anyone that India is seriously engaged in anti-doping campaigns when, by all indications, activities at the dope control lab as well as by those given the tag of `experts', foreign or otherwise, suggest that there is an attempt to suppress positive cases, if not to actually indulge in systematic doping and masking.
A ready-made excuse for not taking any action is the lack of IOC accreditation for the SAI laboratory here. This excuse might come in handy yet again in the present case, though in the recent past, at least a few federations, including weightlifting and swimming, have taken action against their competitors based on the tests conducted at the lab here.
The Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI) has a clause within its rules and regulations that legitimises tests done at the SAI lab and action taken subsequently while the others have taken action without such rules in place, leaving themselves open to litigation threats.
Several theories have been floated during the past year or so and very recently, too, about overcoming the accreditation hurdle at least till the time the SAI lab is finally accredited by the IOC. That remains a big `if', considering the pace at which the ISO certification procedures have been gone through in recent times.
It has been suggested that `B' sample testing could be done at the SAI lab itself if the competitor had no objection while another suggestion that cropped up was to send the `B' sample abroad to confirm a positive case.
Such procedures are alien to IOC/WADA regulations when it comes to international competitions while there is nothing written down as to what could be done for National level meets and matters coming purely under National jurisdiction.
If the IOC explanations have talked about the possibility of `B' samples being tested in a different lab, then it is only in the context of the `A' sample having been tested in an accredited lab and the same being contested by the competitor concerned. By no stretch of imagination can it be construed that the `A' sample could be tested at a non-accredited lab and a positive thus detected could be confirmed through a `B' sample testing at an accredited lab.
A rather hilarious suggestion was also considered recently by the IOA, in respect of the Afro-Asian Games, that tests could be carried out at a private laboratory that had the ISO 17025 certification while the SAI lab was awaiting the same certification. It was argued that such a procedure will make testing cheaper.
Everyone forgot that testing for international events has to be done only at `accredited' labs as different from those having ISO 17025 certification. The ISO 17025 certification is a pre-requisite for seeking IOC accreditation and is not a substitute for accreditation itself.
If the idea is to carry out tests for domestic competitions, the SAI lab is as good as any when it comes to legality. And the tests are cheaper there, forgetting for a moment who eventually foots the bill.
Should the SAI lab continue to carry out pre-departure testing on a mass scale simply to help our athletes avoid detection abroad? That question will remain even as the IOA and the federations wrestle with the current list of 22 positives.
More than three months have passed since the National Games concluded in Hyderabad. Thanks largely to the slow pace at which the SAI lab could complete its testing procedures, the positives are being brought into the picture only now. Further procedural delays are possible, but another attempt at sweeping everything under the carpet will only bring more international focus onto the country if it has not already been branded as the `No 1 doper' in Asia.
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