Since the 2002 Commonwealth Games, India has faced major embarrassment in international sports because of doping by leading sportspersons. If the malady used to be deep in weightlifting, it has now spread alarmingly across Indian athletics. The news that eight athletes, including three members of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold-medal winning 4×400 relay quartet, Mandeep Kaur, Ashwini Akkunji and Sin Jose, have tested positive is a matter of shame. Predictably, all have pleaded innocence, triggering a blame game. The suspicion points to coaches and administrators. In a quick response to the public outrage, the Sports Ministry has sacked the coach of the relay team from Ukraine, Yuriy Ogorodonik. Indian coaches who were assisting him have also been placed under suspension. Measures aimed at cleansing the system have been initiated, with Mukul Mudgal, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and an expert in sports law, being appointed to enquire into the modus operandi of doping in Indian athletics.
Where the lure of money, privilege, and fame becomes irresistible, many athletes turn to doping as a short cut to success. Several coaches and doctors aid the racket. Sports administrators, if they are not directly complicit, often turn a Nelson’s eye to the goings-on in the camps so long as success is ensured to enlarge their own influence. The logic of sending teams for training to Ukraine and other countries, with the same set of coaches who have been assisting them in India, is difficult to understand. This policy needs to be reviewed. The current scourge appears to be a calculated fraud by coaches, doctors, misguided athletes, and unscrupulous officials.
Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken must be commended for making a tough stand against doping and stepping in boldly to make it clear that there will be zero tolerance of such practices. He surely knows that the malaise is deep-seated and that dismissing the foreign coach, who denies any wrongdoing, touches only the fringe. A thorough probe and stiff penalties for those abusing the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code will help curb this menace. The public mood favours withdrawing the rewards and awards from the offending athletes. Since 2006, Indian athletes have remained prominently on the international dope-testing radar — without actually getting caught. Now, with the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) playing a leading role in catching the culprits, there is new hope that the dope cheats will be weeded out. Mr. Maken’s insistence that punishment should be meted out to coaches and officials, apart from the athletes, reflects the mood of the sports fraternity.