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'Doping at lower level is beyond our control': AFI president Adille Sumariwalla

AFI president Adille Sumariwalla asserted that federation is doing their part of raising awareness about doping but lower level athletes are beyond their control.

Doping at lower level is beyond our control: AFI president Adille Sumariwalla

AFI president Adille Sumariwalla


Pritish Raj

Updated: 1 April 2024 5:47 AM GMT

Delhi: Doping is not a new phenomenon in Indian sports, and athletics is one of the leading sectors when it comes to athletes being caught. Globally, athletics is the sport with the highest number of athletes caught doping.

As per a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Athletics was number one in 2020 with 107 cases at the global level.

Elite Indian athletes like quarter-miler Anjali Devi, Tokyo Olympian racewalker Bhawna Jat, sprinter Dutee Chand, and many others were caught doping in the past year.

Doping at the grassroots beyond control

"Doping is a very serious menace for Indian athletics and there are mainly two reasons for it. The main reason is that it starts at the lowest level," Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla told The Bridge on the sidelines of the first Relay Open Carnival last week.

"At the district level and U-14 level, coaches are encouraging it for quick results. It is beyond the control of the Athletics Federation of India and it all depends on the state federations and district bodies to control this," he added further.

Athletics tournaments at the state and district level in India are notorious for doping. One such case came last year when all the participants of the 100m race in a Delhi state tournament ran away after hearing about the presence of National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) officials.

In another similar incident, The Bridge found multiple syringes and vials of medicine at the venue of a Haryana State Athletics meet in Rohtak.

Sumariwalla believes that they are fighting the menace with the means available to them.

"We have been testing more than in past years. We used to test 100 samples earlier but now the volume has increased and we are testing more than thousands of samples," he explained.

As per the AFI president, AFI has a clear and strict policy against doping and the federation keeps a check by raiding national camps and different institutions time and again.

However, the lower level of doping is something that remains out of control for the federation and NADA alike.

Elite Athletes and desire for quick results

While the lower-level competitions are beyond control, elite Indian athletes are regularly caught doping including Olympians.

In the past year, big names such as Hima Das, Dutee Chand, Anjali Devi, Karanveer Singh, Archana Suseendran, Bhawna Jat, and many more were handed suspensions by NADA.

Talking about elite athletes caught in doping, Adille said," If you look at these elite athletes, none of them were caught during the national camps. Most of these athletes were caught after they left the national camp."

Citing the example of quarter-miler Anjali Devi, who won gold in 400m at the 2023 Inter State Championships, Sumariwalla said, "Anjali Devi had vanished for two years and comes back to clock a superb timing. We have no idea what she did when she was away from National camp."

Weeks after her gold medal win, Anjali Devi tested positive for GW1516 and was handed a year ban dating from 7th July 2023.

More awareness and strict punishment can curb Doping

11-time national champion in the 100m sprint, Sumariwall believes that the menace can be curbed by more awareness and stricter punishments for both coaches and athletes.

"We are going to different competitions including district competitions, departmental competitions, and university competitions to create awareness about doping. There have been workshops and many knowledge transfer programs regarding the same," he said.

While authorities suspend the athlete, the coaches often involved in the process remain unscathed and go on to coach more athletes.

"We have to see who these coaches are. A lot of them are government coaches and hence they come out clean and continue further in the system," said Adille.

"We need a very strict law under the Indian Penal Code. The law formulated by us suggested the government criminalize Doping. The government wants to slowly implement it and we are hopeful of fighting this menace better," Adille concluded.

It is clear that the Indian sports ecosystem needs better machinery to deal with the constant menace of doping which ruins careers and brings international shame to the country that aspires to be a sporting super power.

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