The subject of doping in Indian sports raises its ugly head at the most unexpected times. News of an athlete carrying a banned substance in his kit bag has spread like wild fire.
Officials have issued clarifications even on proposals to make doping offences a crime in India. A lot of noise is created when the issue is still hot but in due course it will lie hidden in the files of the very same officials who are now at their loudest best.
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Remember Justice Mudgal submitting a list of athletes who were supposed to have used drugs in a sealed cover? Their names have not yet been made public though they have been submitted a decade or so ago. Some reputed names are believed to have been involved, hence the secrecy. Lesser lights have been hauled over the coals thereafter though. They have served their ban periods, some have even got it rescinded. And the show goes on.
The question is: Are we serious in tackling the issue of drugs in sport? Agencies like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the National Anti-doping Agency (NADA) have been active but it is the sports administrators and their political masters, who lord over everything, who are the main hurdle in tackling the menace. They have their own compulsions and vote banks to think of before any direct action is initiated. And hence, like so many other issues, this also gets mired in a controversy totally unnecessary and is swept under the carpet.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel recently stated that they were considering “whether athletes can be sent to jail by introducing a new legislation which will make doping a criminal offence.” The proposed legislation is also aimed at punishing coaches and officials who are behind the supply of the prohibited substance to the athletes. A panel has been formed to draft the proposed legislation.
“We do not intend to send any athlete to jail. It’s just that we are in the process of framing a legislation to streamline the procedure and mechanism of dope control in the country. As of now it is only the athletes who get punished, but there are many other people in the system who could be responsible and in many cases they are responsible for the punishment meted out to the athlete but went scot-free. At times the athlete is a victim rather than a culprit,” said NADA Director General Agarwal.
“So the legislation will provide for that and secondly things like nutritional supplements, many of them are laced with prohibited substances. There is no regulation as of now. There are various other issues which will be sorted through this legislation,” he said.
“Well, it is a long procedure. But only some of the offences will be criminalised, whereby if somebody is targeting the innocent athletes. The idea is to protect the clean athlete, who doesn’t want to dope but due to his circumstances and without his knowledge he gets doped,” he said.
Australia, Austria, France and Italy have enacted laws that criminalise doing in sports. These nations punish not just the athletes involved but also those around the entire exercise from procurement to distribution and administration of drugs.
Austria has adopted a unique approach to criminalising doping in sports. Under section 147 of the Austrian St GB, any person who commits fraud (entailing more than ‘insignificant damage’) by using a substance or method prohibited under the World and or European Anti-Doping Convention faces up to three years imprisonment. If the damage caused by the use of prohibited substance or method exceeds €50,000 the maximum sentence increases to ten years imprisonment.
In Italy, the laws establishes three distinct types of criminal doping offences.
The first two offences concern both athletes and support personnel procuring, administering, consuming (or even encouraging the use of) WADC Prohibited Substances or Methods, with the aim of improving an athlete’s competitive performance or to modify the results of an anti-doping test. Imprisonment from three months to three years and a fine from €2,580 to €51,645 are the sanctions for these offences.
The third offence aims to tackle illegal suppliers who trade in WADC Prohibited Substances outside official distribution channels. Imprisonment from two to six years and a fine from €5,164 to €77,468 are the sanctions for this offence.
Under the Sports Code, in France, the use of a WADC Prohibited Substance or Method is criminal offence. It criminalises the supply and administration of a Prohibited Substance or Method and failure to cooperate with anti-doping investigations.
Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Hungary Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Spain and Sweden have enacted sports specific legislation that criminalises the trafficking of WADC Prohibited Substances and Methods.
It’s time India steps up the pace and enacts laws that criminalise doping and pronto. Athletes are now aware that medals at major sporting events like the World Championships, Olympic Games,
Commonwealth Games, Asian Games etc. can make them rich overnight. The Central and State governments have announced huge cash rewards for medal-winning performances. Consequently, the get-rich-fast approach is now everybody’s pursuit. If rewards are to be meaningful, performances must be ‘clean’. Only criminalization of doping can achieve that.
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