Olympics: Saga of the game, glory and dope

Faster, Higher, Strong: Three aspirational words as the Olympic motto. Photograph:( Getty )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 26, 2016, 11.59 AM (IST) Madhumita Saha
Indian sports establishment is going through a particularly frustrating phase with three of its athletes testing positive in the recent anti-doping tests. Wrestlers Narsingh and Sandeep Yadav, and more recently, shot put player Inderjeet Singh have tested positive in the doping tests conducted on them by National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).  Already chosen to be part of India's Olympic squad, neither Narsingh nor Inderjeet can now participate in the upcoming competition at Rio. Sandeep, though not part of the Indian squad, faces the possibility of years of expulsion from the game. 

Both Narshing and Sandeep had methandieone, an anabolic steroid in their urine.  In case of Inderjeet, sources could not confirm the banned material found in his body other than referring to it as a "fancy sounding drug". With largest ever contingent of 120 contestants registered to participate, this year's Olympic could have been one of the high-marks in independent India's sporting history instead the country squirms in the humiliation of the scandal. 

The Rio Olympic authorities have outlined Anti-Doping Rules, which will remain effective from the opening of the Athletes' Village on 24 July until the closing ceremony on 21 August 2016.  These rules are drafted in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) and the List of Prohibited Substance and Methods that are put together, updated and modified annually by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) . Founded in 1999, WADA's authority is pervasive in the sporting world with its Code been presently adopted by 600 sports organisations internationally. 

The Anti-Doping rules of the Rio Olympic states that all athletes registered to compete at the Game can be tested at anytime, anywhere in the world, including outside the Olympic Village. The test procedure specifies that two separate samples, A and B,  will be collected from athletes. If the testers find some banned substance in sample A, they will look for the same substance the sample B. The concerned athlete will retain the right to either accept the result of the first test or request for another test on sample B. The two analysis should be consistent, else the entire test will be considered void.  

All the three concerned contestants from India have tested positive in both counts of tests. Shot put player Inderjeet Singh, however , had been protesting his innocence. He alleges to be the victim of a "conspiracy" because of his alleged critical attitude towards the authorities. "I have been framed because I am outspoken. This is a conspiracy against me", Singh lashed out to TV channels. Singh had progressively improved his performance over the years both at the domestic and international competitions. In 2015, he won three Gold medals while representing India at the Asian Championship at Wuhan, the Asian Grand Prix at Bangkok and at the Summer Universiade at Gwangju. 

Though no direct comment was available from Narsingh Yadav, similar conspiracy theories, however, are making rounds. Deeply disturbed by this sudden turn of events, Narsingh's mother Bhulna Devi confidently quips, "He is implicated in it....all these things in the papers are incorrect." She cannot seem to come in terms with the fact that the high-achiever son who have consistently won Gold (Common Wealth Games 2010), Silver (Commonwealth Championships 2011) and Bronze medals (Asian Games 2014, Asian and World Championships 2015) could miss the chance of representing India at the Olympics. 

Even if we decide to ignore Bhulna Devi's claims as emotionally-triggered, the doubts expressed by people who are reputed to have expertise on the science of doping cannot be easily brushed aside. Dr PSM Chandran, the former director of sports medicine at Sports Authority of India (SAI), for instance, expressed his confusion as to why, so close to the competition, will some sportman consume any banned substance. All athletes, in their right mind, know that any such intakes will show up in random tests both in India and in Rio. Particularly, as the kind of steroid Narsingh used is "quite ancient in use", Chandran points out; he still fails to find a reasonable motive. 

Notwithstanding their protestations, Narsingh and his roommate Sandeep Yadav have appeared before the disciplinary committee of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) . 

India's sport personalities have repeatedly failed drug test. In 2004, Athens Olympics, weightlifters Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu were found to be using performance enhancing drugs. Chanu tested positive again before the beginning of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. This time She was banned for eight long years. Over the years Indian Weightlifting Federation had been banned in 2004, 2006 and 2009. The symptoms have affected other sporting fields too. In 2011  NADA handed out one year bans to its quartermilers Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose, Mary Tiana Thomas, Priyanka Pawar, Jauna Murmu, Mandeep Kaur who tested positive ahead of the Asian Championship. Last year NADA declared that 21 weightlifters have tested positive and they were provisionally suspended by the Indian Weightlifting Federation.

Faster, Higher, Stronger: In adopting these three aspirational words as the Olympic motto,  Pierre de Coubertin hardly realised that sportsperson would narrowly interpret it - focusing on its technical meaning- while leaving out its moral and educational perspectives. The temptation to give in to shortcuts often deafens athletes to the original call to challenge physical limitations through hard work, grit and patience. The recent doping trend has alarmed many a sportslover who have lamented the loss of sportsmanship from the game. But the pressure to win, to prove one's skill, and to retain sponsors have become such paramount objectives that athletes are often willing to make choices that are eventually ruining the very dream that made them love the sports at the very first place.