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Doping in Sports: Indian Athletes caught seeking shortcuts

Doping in sports is an epidemic that has bewildered not just Indian sports, but athletes world over are caught in this shameful act. The very foundation of sports is based on natural talent, hard work and commitment and true success should be based on this foundation.

Sports, when played on a professional level, require physical and mental fortitude of the highest order. In order to attain success, athletes tend to forget the blurs between the wrong and the right. Expectations and the desire to be victorious pushes them to make use of unfair means.

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Most of the time knowingly and on rare occasions unknowingly, athletes end up using perform enhancing drugs to cross that line.

The evil of doping and drugs is not limited to any particular sport. Doping incidents in athletics, tennis, cricket, boxing not only destroyed the image of the player or team but also harm the credibility of the entire sport. It brings shame to the nation as well.

There have been quite a few incidents of doping in sports related to Indian athletes, here are the few:

Narsingh Yadav

Narsingh tested positive for methandienone on two occasions.

What started as a minor tussle for an Olympic berth in men’s 74kg freestyle between Narsingh & Sushil Kumar, landed into a legal battle. Though Narsingh won in the court, the ordeal was far from over as Narsingh landed in a bigger mess with his blood sample returning positive for a banned substance.

Narsingh claimed innocence, saying it was a conspiracy against him and his food supplements and water had been spiked.

Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) eventually handed a four-year ban overturning the clean chit given to him by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). Narsingh tested positive for methandienone on two occasions: June 25 and July 5 in 2016.

According to CAS, Narsingh took the banned substances knowingly. As per CAS report Narsingh’s dope offence was not due to one-time ingestion of the prohibited substance and its concentration in the first test result was so high that it had to come from an oral ingestion of one or two tablets of methandienone, rather than from a drink where the powder had been mixed with water or food supplements.

The wrestler was barred from participating in Rio Olympics in the category of 74 kg freestyle wrestling, and Indian sports fans were shocked to know such type of doping in sports also exist.

Sanamacha Chanu

Sanamacha Chanu tested positive twice.

Second on the list of Doping in sports is a woman weightlifter. An Asian and Commonwealth Games champion, Sanamacha Chanu originally finished fourth in the 53kg category in the 2004 Athens Olympics but was disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance.

She repeated her offence in 2010, which caused her to miss out on a spot in the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010 squad.

To add to the agony, this happened after the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) paid $500000 fine to the international body after its six lifters failed WADA dope tests. Indian weightlifters were allowed to take part in CWG 2010 after paying this hefty fine by IWF.

As per WADA rules, she is now facing a life ban from weightlifting.

Pradeep Sangwan

The gentleman’s game too has its own share of doping woes.

Pradeep Sangwan was part of the U-19 World Cup which went on to win the cup in 2008 and had represented Delhi in Ranji Trophy before being roped into Kolkata Knight Riders squad in 2011. The cricketer was banned from BCCI-organised events from May 6, 2013, to November 5, 2014, after he was tested positive for Stanozolol – a prohibited steroid – during IPL 2013.

BCCI’s Anti-Doping Tribunal refused to accept the pacer’s claim that he consumed the banned substance after his gym instructor told him that it would help in reducing his fat. BCCI follows its own anti-doping procedures as it does not come under WADA and NADA.

Seema Punia

The ace discus thrower earned the nickname ‘millennium child’ after winning gold in the World Junior Athletic Championships in 2000 in Santiago, Chile. The happiness, did not last long as she was tested positive for pseudoephedrine, a banned substance, which resulted in her getting stripped of her medal and getting an official warning from the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI).

She was tested positive for Pseudoephedrine—a medication for cold and a stimulant. Punia, however, did not face a ban.

The incident was forgotten after she struck silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games at Melbourne. In 2006, again she was tested positive for Stanozolol—a banned substance. Although she was cleared off the charges by Athletics Federation of India (AFI), Punia chose not to participate in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

She managed to leave the dishonour behind to win the gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games and silver at 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Pratima Kumari

Pratima Kumari (File Pic)

Fifth on the list is another woman weightlifter who was caught doping in sports. Pratima Kumari tested positive before the Athens Olympics 2004 and was banned from the Games. Indian delegation did not reveal the fact until the event happened took. The news was broken after her name was found missing from the list in the women’s 63kg weightlifting.

The news of Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore winning India’s first-ever individual Olympic medal in the Athens games in 2004 was short-lived when the news of weightlifters Sanamacha Chanu (53 kg) and Pratima Kumari (63 kg) testing positive for banned substances made headlines during the event.

What is doping in sports?

The most commonly used forms of doping in sports include blood doping and Erythropoietin (EPO).

Blood doping is the process of an artificial increase in the amount of RBC’s (Red Blood Cells)  in the body which can help improve athletic performance.

In the past this was accomplished by transfusion. The athlete would ‘donate’ a unit of blood into storage, which after some 3 weeks, would be transfused the unit back into the body.

This would occur just before a big race, effectively giving the athlete an ‘extra’ unit of blood. This enables performance improvements in endurance sports because of the extra oxygen-carrying capacity by red blood cells. This practice is banned in professional sports.

Erythropoietin or EPO as commonly referred to is a naturally occurring hormone produced by kidneys which stimulate the production of RBC in the body.

Athletes can get a bigger boost by injecting themselves with erythropoietin (EPO) to stimulate RBC production.

A urine test for artificial EPO was introduced in 1997, but it’s not foolproof; while testable traces of artificial EPO disappear from an athlete’s body within four days, the hormone’s effects are strongest three weeks after injection.

History of doping in sports

  • The use of strength building substances in sport can be traced back as far as Ancient Greece, but it was during the 1920s that restrictions about drug use in sports were given consideration.
  • In 1928 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) – athletics world governing body – became the first international sports federation to ban doping.
  • In 1966, the world governing bodies for cycling and FIFA football were the first to introduce doping tests in their respective world championships.
  • With the first Olympic testing coming in 1968, at the Winter Games in Grenoble and Summer Games in Mexico.
  • By the 1970s, most international federations had introduced drug-testing.
  • The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established after a major drug scandal at the 1998 Tour de France (cycling event) underlined the need for an independent international agency to set standards in anti-doping work.

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