July 6 to July 9 saw Odisha hosting one of its biggest ever international athletics meet. Quite unexpectedly, India finished above the contingent from China and went on to register its best ever performance at the Asian Athletics Championship. A few names stood out among the medallists and among them was Manpreet Kaur. The shot-putter from Ambala put up a brilliant performance in Bhubaneshwar after a throw of 18.28m earned her the coveted Gold medal.
Barely two weeks since her publicised feat, Kaur has been caught up in controversy. The 27-year old has tested positive for the stimulant Dimethylbutylamine in a test that was conducted before the commencement of the Asian Athletics Championship. Kaur is set to participate at the World Athletics Championship in London next month and this revelation will not affect her participation. However, it might put her recent Asian Athletics Championship medal at risk.
Back in April this year, the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) announced its intention to criminalise doping. The implication was that in the event of an athlete being booked under the use of prohibited substances, the coaches and managers of the concerned athletes would have action taken against them. The move was taken after India secured a consistent third place for the third straight year on the World Anti Doping Agency’s global list of doping offenders.
Even more recently there were talks of a tie in between NADA and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. NADA’s proposal included a requirement to frame standards for several off-the shelf food supplements.
More often than not, athletes claim ignorance when caught in doping scandals. A clear and consistent standard for these unofficial food standards would rule out that ploy.
FSSAI had to refrain from agreeing to these terms. Their claim insinuated that the knowledge of sports medicine was well beyond their mandate and expertise.
This is indicative a larger problem. With the lack of comprehensive regulations in place, the number of athletes caught in the shadow of doping has risen alarmingly over the past few years.Immediately before the Rio Olympics in 2016, wrestler Narsingh Yadav’s tryst with a failed dope test threatened to rock the country’s sporting fraternity and it significantly decreased India’s morale before the Games. Additionally, the scandal involving Inderjeet Singh in the same month prevented India’s only male shot-putter at the Summer Games from competing.
After WADA’s highly troubling statistics that put India just after Russia and Italy on the global doping lists, the most obvious course of action by the country’s government should have been to tighten the noose when it came to prohibited substances. But things do not seem to have gone according to plan. With the recent allegations on Manpreet Kaur, the glaring loopholes within the country’s monitoring system have been brought to the limelight.
According to former international Judo player Yashpal Solanki, a systematic approach centred around awareness might be the answer. While students in higher classes or college going students are already taught about performance enhancing drugs, the grassroots level is where the maximum effort should be concentrated on. Furthermore, the lack of a stringent monitoring system at the domestic system might be another factor which leads to the rise of the use of these substances.
Read: 29 medals are certainly encouraging but we still have a long way to go.
Taking a cue from the anti doping association of Australia, NADA recently talked about a wholesome surveillance system wherein an athlete’s public transactions and electronics could be put under the scanner under suspicion of doping. Disclosing phone and laptop records, claims NADA, would help monitor an athlete’s drug transactions and would aid in tracking the purchases of such substances.
As things stand, Manpreet Kaur’s road to the upcoming World Championships promises to remain unhindered. But this cloud certainly does put a damper on her fantastic performance in Bhubaneshwar. It also raises serious questions about the integrity of the athlete. The national record-holder is all set to appear before a disciplinary committee officiated by NADA to prove her innocence. Her right to avail a B Test will be conveyed to her, something she may choose to refuse if she so wishes. Even so, NADA reserves the right to conduct a follow-up test before an independent observer.
Post her continental title earlier this month, Kaur had come out to declare that she hoped to continue her form at London World Championships. So far, India’s record at the World Championships has not been encouraging. And the signs right now certainly do not add to the negative atmosphere.