NEW DELHI: If you know about Sunita Rani today, it's not
because she had won an Asiad gold medal. It's because she has lost it, right?
Sad, that a few extra nanograms of the banned substance nandralone in her body
could be a spoiler for so many.
Even though the Sports Authority of India (SAI) director-general, Shekhar Dutt,
says "she has been tried by the media and hanged even before the final test
results", he must agree that like match-fixing in cricket, doping should not be
swept under the tartan track. It can't be: it is widespread, almost official,
done with the collusion of coaches and managers, claim members of the sports
Ask badminton star Aparna Popat, who tested positive for doping three years
ago. "Doping is everywhere. It may not be widespread in disciplines where you
don't need to use power, but in weight lifting and running you need to be extra
muscular and frequently tend to adopt unacceptable ways. The authorities might
be taking the strictest possible measures to eradicate doping, but, like it or
not, it's a part of sport."
What is the
extent of doping in India?
The SAI has run tests on sportsmen since 1990, off and on — 257 of them have
tested positive. Orthopaedic surgeon Pushpinder S. Bajaj, who specialises in
sport injuries calls this figure, "the tip of the iceberg".
Asks Bajaj: "Is there any record at all of all those sports people who get
banned substances over the counter easily, those who evade tests which are
rarely run at the state and national level and those who use "cycling" (see
box) to fool organisers?"
Why are steroids banned?
Anabolic steroids such as nandralone may improve the body's capacity to train
and compete, reduce fatigue and recovery after physical exertion and promote
the development of muscle tissue in the body, but apparently, our sports
persons who use IOC's list of banned substances (see box) are not aware of the
By disturbing the body's equilibrium, anabolic steroids can potentially cause
damage to many of the body's major organs, particularly the liver. They could
trigger an expansion of the cardiac muscle, which can cause heart attacks. If
used by those below 16 years, it stops the growth of bones. However, an early
grave should be the strongest deterrent.
Why do Indian sportsmen continue to
Simply because the stakes are high. As football coach Amal Dutta explains:
"Sports has turned into business and a source of livelihood for many. Players
are taking the risk for quick success: medals, money, jobs and endorsements."
Some lack self-confidence and buckle to peer pressure while others are plain
ignorant. Those like Jyotirmoyee Sikdar may be low on info, but has her ethics
right. "I don't know much about banned substances, but I have always avoided
medication during an event. I believe these substances can't help you win."
However, sport medics like Bajaj say they find it extremely difficult to reason
with many sport persons for whom the trainer's word is gospel. Says SAI DG
Shekhar Dutt, "We not only have awareness programmes for sports people, but
especially for trainers too — weight lifter Madaswamy's trainer was sacked and
is not allowed into our premises."
Coach Dutta admits: "I had had very little knowledge of doping and its
side-effects early in my coaching career, today's coaches are better informed."
Under duress or bad advise, many continue to pin their hopes on dope.
Madhu Jawali in Bangalore and Raju Bhattacharjee in Kolkata)
Sports organisations would do a signal service if they were to publicise a list
of banned drugs. Our athletes need doctors and other experts who can monitor
their diet and training, and prevent inadvertent intake of illegal substances.
Sunita Rani's dope test raises questions
Everyone's treating Sunita like a criminal: Sister
Busan did not follow norms: P K Srivastava
All the dope on doping