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Rediff.com  » Sports » India's Rio Olympics-bound sportspersons dope-free: NADA

India's Rio Olympics-bound sportspersons dope-free: NADA

July 13, 2016 19:08 IST

IMAGE: Participants at the World Anti-Doping Agency Symposium for Anti-Doping Organizations in Lausanne, March 24, 2015. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

National Anti-Doping Agency Director General Navin Agarwal says all the Rio Olympics-bound sportspersons have undergone testing for banned substances and are dope-free.

He, however, conceded that there were issues regarding testing of a few Rio-bound sportspersons as they were not available at the "whereabouts" provided by them as mandated under the Anti-Doping Administration Management System (ADAMS) of the World Anti-Doping Agency, but NADA was able to get their testing done later on.

"All Rio-bound athletes have been tested. Some of the athletes have been tested at least once, some have been tested twice and some thrice. Some athletes could not be tested on the second occasion because they were training abroad and in their case they have been tested at least once," Agarwal, who joined the anti-doping body last month, said.

"For those training abroad, we have hired some agencies to collect samples there (abroad) and we have tested the samples of all these athletes.

"I am quite confident that the Indian contingent at the Rio Olympics will have no doping violation by any of them this time. We also hope there will be no doping violation from other countries. Since we are very strict as far as our athletes are concerned, we also expect same strictness from other countries so that there is fair play," added the 1986 batch senior IPS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre.

The Indian contingent at the 2004 Olympics was rocked by a doping scandal as two weightlifters -- Sanamacha Chanu and Pratima Kumari -- tested positive for banned substances, while another lifter, Monika Devi, was barred from leaving for 2008 Olympics just a day before she was to board the Beijing flight.

There was, however, no such incident prior and during the 2012 London Olympics.

Asked specifically if some sportspersons resisted undergoing tests by not being present at their "whereabouts", Agarwal replied in the affirmative.

‘There have been instances of one or two whereabouts failures regarding a few Rio-bound sportspersons but till now there is no instance of three whereabouts failures and so there is no doping violation so far.’

"There have been a few cases, though I cannot disclose them. In such cases we issue notices and three such whereabouts failure is treated as a doping violation.

"There have been instances of one or two whereabouts failures regarding a few Rio-bound sportspersons but till now there is no instance of three whereabouts failures and so there is no doping violation so far."

Sportspersons included in the reserve testing pool need to provide their 'whereabouts' and they will have to be available for dope testing at specified times.

Agarwal also confirmed that discus thrower Seema Punia had undergone dope test recently at her "hometown".

Seema had recently cancelled a press conference citing an impending dope test.

"She (Seema) had given her consent for a dope test and it was organised in one of those days in her hometown. I don't want to say further on this but a dope test was conducted on her. A dope test does not take much time and there is nothing extraordinary in conducting a dope test," said the NADA chief, who was Director General Youth Services and Sports in Jammu and Kashmir.

India was recently named as the third-most doped country in the world in a report published by WADA for cases related to 2014 and Agarwal said it was not a happy situation and he would work to get the country rid of that tag.

"NADA is still in its infancy and some of our procedures have been copied from WADA. As a national agency, there is still a lot to do. We also want to get rid of this tag of third-most doped country in the world. We are not happy with this situation. As a national policy, we are committed to a dope-free sports," he said.

He laid out some of the targets he would want to achieve during his tenure for which he said the government would need to increase the budgetary allocation drastically.

"First, we have to spread awareness that athletes should not use doping as shortcut to success. It is harmful to their health as well to their career. We want to educate the athletes regarding this on a massive scale and bring awareness so that we can prevent doping.

"Secondly, we want to establish regional offices of the NADA so that it covers the length and breadth of the country to have meaningful impact of anti-doping programmes. Currently, sportspersons from the eastern and southern region of the country face inconvenience while coming to appear before the disciplinary and appeal panels of the NADA in New Delhi.

"Thirdly, we want to make NADA the hub of dope testing and anti-doping activities in South Asian region. Currently, also samples come to NADA from neighbouring countries for testing. We want to be leader in South Asia in eliminating doping."

IMAGE: A technician holds a test tube with a blood sample at the Russian anti-doping laboratory in Moscow. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Agarwal was candid in admitting that to realise these aims a drastic increase in budgetary allocation will be required.

"The organisation needs a lot of expansion and budgetary allocation is very meagre. Earlier, the NADA was testing 2000 samples a year and now the target is 5000 samples a year. But the budget is still the same and how will it be possible. This needs to be changed.

"We have made projections to the government and we want to do certain things which we have not adequately addressed in the past, for example education among the athletes to bring awareness about harmful effects of doping.

"This education has not reached to the athletes who are vulnerable to doping. There have been programmes in various forms but actually the target group has not been covered. Because when we analyse these people caught for doping, most of those were unaware of any kind of such education."

He said the main focus would be preventing athletes from using drugs by making them aware that doping is harmful for to their own health as well as career.

"Many players are not aware and even coaches prescribe certain supplements to their wards to enhance their performance not realising that in the long run it's harmful to the health of the athlete. Also, the rules are so strict now, it is not easy to get away with doping.

‘There has to be a mechanism to prevent the availability of these substances unless they are needed genuinely and therapeutic use exemption is sought. These substances should not be available in the market. Or, there should be a label of warning that these substances are not to be used by healthy individuals pursuing sports and games.’

"So doping will eventually ruin any sportsperson's health as well as career. This is what we need to inculcate when the players are young so that they do not fall prey to doping."

He also wants to check the easy availability of contaminated nutritional supplements in the open market and for this he said NADA will take help from other government bodies, like the Medical Council of India or Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.

He said he would approach the All India Council of Sports headed by former BJP Member of Parliament and ex-Indian Olympic Association Acting President V K Malhotra.

"Various doping components are easily available in the market and these things need to be checked. We can deal with Medical council of India or Indian Medical Association or Food Safety and Standards Authority of India with regard to various nutritional food supplements which may contain contaminated substances. We will approach the AICS to coordinate with these organisations on this aspect," he said.

"There has to be a mechanism to prevent the availability of these substances unless they are needed genuinely and therapeutic use exemption is sought. These substances should not be available in the market. Or, there should be a label of warning that these substances are not to be used by healthy individuals pursuing sports and games.

"Nutrition supplement per se is not harmful if it contains proteins, minerals and vitamins. Certainly, an athlete needs nutritional supplement. But it should not contain the doping substances and willy-nilly an athlete may take it thinking that it may strengthen his muscles but actually he is getting these dope substances artificially.

"If he gets tested he will test positive but he will say he has never used banned substances and that the test may be wrong. He is not even aware that these products may contain banned substances. The culprit is the contaminated supplement which has not been declared in the label which substance it contains."

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