Six months ago, the National Anti-Doping Agency formed a draft in which it proposed that those involved in supplying banned drugs to athletes should be punished. The main reason for that, according to NADA, was that the suppliers of banned drugs often get away without any fine.
Taking a cue from the same, the Wrestling Federation of India passed an order which said that the coaches of the national camp will be fined and banned if any wrestler fails a drug test during the national camp or an international tournament.
While this is not entirely similar to the NADA proposal, it is a first-of-a-kind step from a national federation in India. The federation, keeping in mind past instances, took the step to mete out “strict punishment for the coaches.”
“It’s well known that most coaches are aware that which wrestlers are involved in bad things. So when you know and don’t complain, it’s a problem,” WFI president Brij Bhushan Saran Singh said to Scroll.in. “We want this to go away and the wrestlers should be afraid of doing this.”
In the last year alone, the WFI has paid Rs 32 lakh as fine to the international governing body United World Wrestling as fine after two of its wrestler failed dope tests in international competitions.
That is a very small number. Wrestlers failing dope tests nationally is a major problem in India. Six positive cases of doping in the two editions of Khelo India but it WFI has decided to punish only national camp coaches. What will happen when a wrestler fails a dope test domestically?
“We cannot ban coaches in the akhada,” Singh says. “If there are 300 wrestlers in an akhada, it is difficult to test all of them. But if one or two of them are in the national camp, we know what they are doing. It is then the responsibility of the national coach to keep a check on the wrestlers.”
There is a lack of clarity among coaches as well after the order. Most national coaches at the age-group level only meet the wrestlers at the camps which makes it difficult for them to assess if someone is indulging in bad practices.
“This is not entirely correct. The cadet-level wrestlers are new and what if they are involved in these things beforehand. What can a coach do? The small children are more vulnerable to such things. Coaches don’t even know them during the first camp,” a former national coach says.
A similar problem arises when the wrestlers are associated with foreign coaches. While WFI has not clarified what action it will take on the foreign coaches associated with the wrestler, there is a growing feeling among coaches in India that former wrestlers will shy away from taking the job of a national coach.
“Which country has such a system? The coaches are not aware of what the wrestlers are doing once they are senior. It’s difficult for everyone. Will the foreign coaches associated with the team also banned?” a former national coach asks.
Singh, however, says it is only for the better. “We want people who are honest. If they are afraid of taking the post, then it means they are not honest.”
WFI’s assistant secretary Vinod Tomar offered a more detailed explanation.
“If the coach feels that something is wrong with a wrestler, he can complain and we will conduct a test,” he says.
But there may, in the worst case scenario, be a false complaint.
“The doubt should be genuine. It’s not like we will ban them the moment the results come. They will face inquiry and will get a chance to defend themselves.”
It’s a step that will certainly push coaches to be more strict but the manner in which the whole process pans out will only be known once a wrestler fails a dope test internationally.