Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


The Doping Nation: How India topped WADA's anti-doping report

Dr Sudeep Satpathy, a sports physician who works with BWF, reasoned India's inability to extinguish doping hazards to the systematic failure.

The Doping Nation: How India topped WADAs anti-doping report



Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 18 April 2024 2:06 PM GMT

On April 9, in an unprecedented incident, the Meeting de Limoges, a challenger-level athletics meet in France, cancelled the entries of three Indian athletes, sparking a controversy.

The organiser of the French event raised doubt about the cleanliness of Indian athletes; they pointed to India's dubious record in tackling the menace of doping. India topped the World Athletics' doping report for 2022 and has been a consistent dope offender.

Though Meeting de Limoges later accepted the Indian athletes' participation after much deliberations with the World Athletics intervening, their initial refusal to let Indians compete signalled a larger problem - the doping abuse and perception that the Indian sporting ecosystem has built before the world.

The trigger was the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Adverse Ana­ly­tical Findings, where India achieved a disgraceful first, making a two-place rise from the 2021 report, to become the world's biggest dope offenders, with 127 Indian athletes (3.26 percent of the sample size) testing positive. India have the highest percentage of doping violations among countries that conducted 2,000 or more tests.

India's Olympic medal-winning sports - athletics, boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting - were the major contributors to this report.


In September 2023, a video went viral across the world, displaying how deep is the problem of doping in India. A steeplechaser crossed the finish line and kept running at an athletics meet in Delhi, as he was chased by National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) officials to get his urine samples. His samples eventually returned positive.

The news was so shocking that it grabbed the attention of the international media, revealing the rotting underbelly of India's sporting culture.

In another study released in January this year, conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for ten years on doping cases among young athletes, India came out as the second worst country.

Such poor records tend to stigmatise a country's image before the world. It also harms India's progress as a sporting nation.

The report also raised questions about India's capacity to control the doping menace. It has come at a time when India is vying to bid for the 2036 Olympics in pursuit of becoming a sporting superpower. In this circumstance, such reports do not send a positive message about India.

The recent WADA report also underlined the need for India's doping regulatory body - NADA - to ramp up its operations. But what is more glaring is NADA's failure to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code, often falling short of the desired standards.

At the Delhi athletics meet, the NADA's dope-control officers turned up at the Delhi state meet only after a national media outlet reported the presence of used syringes in the bathroom of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

At the same time, NADA's strict policy about monitoring events, depending on the participants, is another stumbling block. At the moment, NADA sends officials for dope testing in events having more than 5,000 to 6,000 athletes.

In the report, stated by WADA, India collected 4,064 samples (urine, blood, and athlete biological passports combined), much less than what China (19228) and Germany ((13,653) did.

In terms of the sports budget, the government has allocated Rs 22.30 crore for NADA’s operations for the 2024-2025 financial year in the interim budget compared to Rs 21.73 crore in 2023-24. The budget is much less than what the USA, the most successful nation in the history of the Olympics, has set aside - 13 times more than what India did.

But Dr Sudeep Satpathy, a Sports Physician who works with BWF, FIFA, and FC Goa, said money is not a problem.

"Money is not a problem in India now. The problem is administrative. NADA lacks leadership from top to bottom. Right and stringent actions are required," Satpathy told The Bridge.

Health hazard

For India, the problem is multi-dimensional. While many athletes violated doping protocol to gain undue advantage to secure jobs and government awards, the absence of a robust mechanism is a big headache for India.

There is a health hazard of doping. Achieving sporting success is not the only motive for doping offences.

"Athletes want to enhance their performance. But these are anabolic steroids and hormones, and this has long-term implications in their body like heart ailment and bone pain. That is why educating athletes is very important. But again in India, athletes come from poor backgrounds, and their first concern is finding a job. Hence, they fall into this trap," Satpathy remarked.

There is a bigger problem as coaches encourage athletes to dope for instant success to improve their profile. Parents too stay mum as they strive for jobs for their children.

Sports minister Anurag Thakur's recent decision to provide jobs to Khelo India champions is a welcoming decision, but the chance of securing employment might push the young athletes to dope. It is the flip side of using sport as a source of providing livelihood to youngsters.

'Best practices are not being followed'

Satpathy reasoned India's inability to put an end to doping hazard to the systematic failure.

"The best practices are not being followed in India. The athlete, doping control, and the education programmes are not well set from the grassroots to the top level," he stated.

"There is also a mentality issue among athletes. They strive for quick success. At the same time, their coaches are sometimes unsure about which are doping material and which are not. So, there also education is lacking," added Satpathy.

It is unfair to expect athletes to know the details of prohibited substances as the majority of India's athletes hail from villages unaware of WADA dos and don'ts.

But Satpathy pointed to a cultural issue as younger athletes are often being encouraged to take banned substances by their seniors.

"To make this sound, the important thing is to educate the athletes and the coaching staff. We need to make them aware of the sanctions they might face for violating doping rules. More and more sessions need to be conducted at the camps. But the biggest problem is that everyone is saying even after a doping violation one can dodge the anti-doping watchdog. Most of the young athletes are misguided by their peers," he discerned.

"Many times, they learn from their peers that they will not be caught, because they also know NADA does not have enough mechanisms in place. Because of this reason, they also feel encouraged as they want quick job, money, and everything," Satpathy signed off.

Next Story