Playing with dope: A dangerous dilemma

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Mathew Varghese

Doping issues have hit the headlines once again.. Indian discus thrower Seema Antil withdrew from the Asian Games contingent after testing positive while training at Muscat just as the bans on Pakistani pacemen Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif for doping have been lifted by the Pakistani Cricket Board. Lance Armstrong’s seven consecutive Tour de France wins following his fight with cancer came under the scanner for the umpteenth time after a test on this year’s champion Floyd Landis showed high levels of testosterone.

Sport today is highly competitive and the increasing pressure has led players to take substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Seema Antil was stripped of her world junior championship medal in 2001 after failing a test in the championship held in 2000 in Chile. India’s athletes come a cropper in the international arena. The drive to perform dictates their decision to take to drugs. The coaches also need to be blamed for the misuse.

The national weightlifting coaches were dismissed when the lifters Sanamacha Chanu and Pratima Kumari tested positive at the Athens Olympics in 2004. But the incident had no impact. Two male weightlifters tested positive at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne this year again. Currently, the Indian Weightlifting Association has been banned by the International Weightlifting Federation and hence our lifters are not in action at Doha. India’s record has been tainted since the Busan Asian Games in 2002; with athletes, primarily weightlifters, proven guilty at every major multi-discipline event that the country has taken part in.

The country’s sports administrators need to wake up. Doping should be curbed at every level. Instead of representing the country at the highest level, errant athletes need to be severely penalised.

Even cricketers and chess players face the prospect of doping tests now. What difference would it make if a Vishwanathan Anand takes nandralone or any other banned substance? Perhaps aggression on the chess board would be enhanced? The WADA dope list which was primarily aimed at physical sports surely did not include substances that are meant to enhance brain power. Everyone still remembers the Shane Warne’s “Mommy gave me the pill” excuse given after he had to miss the 2003 World Cup for taking a diuretic.

Diuretics or whatever the dope may be, using ‘Mommy-gave-me’ pleas are no excuses even for trainers, doctors and coaches who should be aware of the black-list apart from sportsmen themselves. Doping is a reality; and prompt prevention seems to be the only cure.

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