Doping-A menace


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By Rishika Mendiratta (Founder and Managing Editor at KhelAdhikar)

That brazenness… I just did not have the switch to turn that off. It helped me on the bike but it also got me where I am today. –Lance Armstrong

This quote of Lance Armstrong is a symbolism of the apathy of all the sportspersons who have indulged in doping with an aim to win the game just to lose the spirit of sportsmanship. ‘Doping’ is the deliberate or the inadvertent use of a substance or a method by sportspersons banned by the Medical Commission Of International Olympic Committee/World Anti-Doping Agency.[1] The issue is very important because doping defeats the very purpose of sports that is to offer a level playing field to all the competitors. This level playing field has been referred to by German writers as Chancengleicheit. The basic difference between sports competitions and other entertainment shows is the availability of equal chances.[2] Apart from this, it is also detrimental to the health of the sportspersons but most importantly the spirit of sport per se is violated.[3] With regard to these considerations the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) was formed in the year 1999 to cleanse sports of its disgrace of doping and since then there have been shocking revelations as well as some serious efforts on the part of this organisation which has brought about a much-desired change towards clean sports.

The issue of doping came to light with the death of cyclist Kurt Jenson in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Eventually after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, there was news of his systematic use of steroids and ultimately with the increase in investigations in 1998 the Festina Cycling team was expelled from Tour De France on account of the use of prohibited substances. Since then there have been several high-profile doping scandals which have received large-scale media coverage. For e.g. The BALCO scandal, the Lance Armstrong case, the Landis case of Tour de France. Even India has been marred by this curse and the recent example is the case of 21 weightlifters who have been banned because of the use of prohibited substances. The conditions are getting worse as most of the times the drugs are administered to the athlete by the coaches themselves and in many state sport competitions, there has been evidence of the large-scale use of syringes for injecting these substances. Even acclaimed sportspersons such as Saina Nehwal have claimed that in India doping in sports is not uncommon [4]which shows us the perilous circumstances of the sporting activity in our country.

Initially there was a lot of concern over the WADA code violating the code of human rights but now it is widely accepted that the rules against doping and the procedural aspect of tests and punishment such as the whereabouts clause of the participant during the off playing periods and the strict liability on being tested positive are all in consonance with human rights as the accused is provided with a fair opportunity of proving his innocence and of reducing the period of punishment. The stricter punishments are a requirement because the sportspersons are role models with global fan following as was iterated by the Ontario Court of Justice in the case of Ben Johnson-

The elite athlete is viewed as a hero and his influence over the young athletes cannot be underestimated. When role models in sport or in any other endeavour are seen to cheat and prosper then it is natural that the young people will learn to do the same.[5]

In order to bring about a change in this disheartening scenario India also established the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in 2008. It is an autonomous body which has the task of initiating proceedings in doping matters and at the same time it acts as an advisory body to the government on the same issue and has the onus of implementing the schemes against doping and sensitizing the public to achieve the aim of clean sports. Despite these efforts the saddening part is that India has been ranked 3rd in international doping violation list released by WADA in 2015 which is based on the data of 2013.This is a cause of concern because as it is India is not a pioneer in the field of sports in the global arena and at the same time we are plagued by this issue of unethical play thereby raising concerns. The problem is deep-rooted. To begin with first of all we need a transparent administrative set-up. In the recent years administrative shortcomings have been highlighted in the issue of commonwealth games and the IOA management followed by disputes in the archery and boxing associations. All these are examples of the flaw in the constitution of our sporting agencies which gives leeway to larger problems of doping.

Doping is a serious issue because every year, 60 percent of the cases which come to CAS are related to doping. When it comes to India the scenario witnesses a plummeting trend as the number of athletes on the banned list is the highest.[6] The disappointing issue is that most of the athletes are the innocent victims of an organisation which is still struggling to come out the shackles of this age-old system where doping was not condemned. There is complete lack of knowledge regarding the method of availing Therapeutic Use Exemption. Not only is there a general lack of implementation when it comes to NADA but on the other hand, the code has failed to take into account animal doping thus creating serious lacunae in doping. The main concern of NADA has lately been to conduct a certain targeted number of testing projects so as to maintain the accreditation of their laboratories to the world body.

The major concern is that India is progressing at a snail’s pace when it comes to awareness about doping and on the other hand WADA is taking stringent measures such as a ban of four years and strict liability for first-time offenders so as to ensure that the spirit of Olympics is not tarnished in 2016. Thus questions such as whether India has reached that stage where it can afford to follow the WADA code in totality or do we actually need reading down of certain provisions in India until the time we can actually put up proper instruments in place whereby the awareness is increased and the procedures involved in testing are crystal clear so as to lessen the possibility of errors arising out of procedural weaknesses.[7] So, in the end, all one should hope for is the beginning of a new future which will come about with more awareness and better compliance. Thus instead of spectacular performance awards, the need of the hour is a fair play award which felicitates players for playing clean and in this way honours the spirit of sport thus keeping its reputation flag flying high. As of now play sports but clean sports.

[1] Grayson, Sport and the Law, (3rd Ed, Butterworth, 2010).

[2] Kaufman Kohler and Antonio Rigozzi, Legal opinion On The Conformity Of Certain Provisions Of The Draft World Anti-Doping Code with Commonly accepted Principles Of international Law, Geneva Law School Journal.

[3]Vidushpat Singhania, ‘Student Paper Sports and Ethics’, DeMontfort University, 2010.

[4] Angikaar Choudhury, India ranks third on world sports doping list. Should we really be surprised?, June 20 2015.

[5] Johnson v. Athletic Canada and IAAF, [1997] O.J.No.3201.

[6] Christopher Kelsall, Doping in Sports: India sets an example, Athlete Illustrated, Dec 28, 2013.

[7] Mukul Mudgal, Law and Sports in India 101-102 (1st Ed. LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur, 2010).


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