No out-of-competition dope testing for some of India’s top medal prospects in individual events, overemphasis on testing hockey players and not meeting World Anti Doping Agency’s (WADA) target of three mandatory tests for Registered Testing Pool athletes are some of the discrepancies in the functioning of National Anti Doping Agency (NADA), according to a report published in the Indian Express on Sunday.
According to the report, NADA has conducted 2062 tests till July this year of which 714 were conducted in February — mostly during the Khelo India Games — while the likes of world badminton championship silver medallist PV Sindhu, Asian Games gold medallists Rahi Sarnobat were never tested and wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat and shuttler Saina Nehwal was tested just once.
The data was acquired by the newspaper under the Right to Information Act, 2005 and once again underlined the lackadaisical approach of the authorities towards curbing doping in the country.
It is worth noting that India was among the top three countries in the world with maximum dope offenders between 2013 and 2015 and slipped to sixth in the 2016 WADA report. However, experts believed that the reduced number of positive tests were due to decline in the overall number of tests conducted and the data obtained under RTI underlines the same point.
Out of the over 2000 tests conducted, Indian athletes were tested just 21 times outside the country while the total number of tests on track and field athletes fell to 362 from 1122 in 2016. According to the report, UK’s anti-doping agency had conducted 2842 tests only in the first quarter of the year while USADA has so far conducted 7544 tests this year.
However, NADA Director General Navin Agarwal insisted that he was satisfied with the figures and that they would surpass their annual target of 3500 tests.
Blame it on slow internet
What is more bizarre is that Agarwal has blamed the low speed of internet for fewer out-of-competition tests and he explains that it affects the athletes’ ability to update their whereabouts on WADA’s Anti Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS).
“You need high-speed internet to update ADAMS and that is not available to many athletes in normal course. Because of that, they are not able to update their whereabouts from their locations. Also, some people were not able to understand how to go about the process. This will improve with time,” Agarwal was quoted as saying.
Equalling baffling is the explanation for the focus on hockey. The sport had just one positive result according to NADA’s 2016 report but still the anti doping body, till July, collected more samples for hockey players (92) than track and field athletes.
Goalkeeper Akash Chitke returned a positive dope test in February and has been suspended for two years.
Agarwal, however, defended the increased focus on hockey saying it was categorised as high risk sport. “Apart from the physiological impact of doping, points like probability of winning medals and popularity of game in the country are also considered. Hockey ranks very high in both, so the number of tests that were to be conducted was pretty high,” he was quoted as saying.