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Operation Carousel: WADA exposes doping irregularities of top Indian athletes

A four-year investigation by WADA into India's doping programme has exposed missed doping tests and a host of systemic failures.

Operation Carousel: WADA exposes doping irregularities of top Indian athletes



Pritish Raj

Updated: 19 July 2023 5:47 AM GMT

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published a four-year investigation report into India’s anti-doping programme, exposing multiple missed dope tests, faulty testing mechanisms, whereabouts failures, and incompetency on Tuesday.

Named 'Operation Carousel'- the investigation began in 2019 after an anonymous allegation was reported to WADA about the failure of the doping system in India.

In the initial stage, Operation Carousel began monitoring select sports and Athletes within India. As a result of this monitoring, NADA undertook several sample collections, and seven powerlifters were caught doping and sanctioned.

After the base was set for investigation, WADA audited the workflow of NADA, interviewed officials, monitored multiple athletes, and analyzed data to discover glaring lapses such as whereabouts failure, lack of sufficient testing, and poor intelligence capability of NADA.

The report published by WADA said, "To that end, Operation Carousel revealed to NADA that of the 131 Athletes in NADA’s RTP (the “RTP Athletes”), more than a quarter (25%) had either not made a Whereabouts Filing at the required times or had made a ‘delayed’ Whereabouts Filing (this being a practice whereby an Athlete does not file their Whereabouts until the last month of a particular quarter, meaning, for the first two months of that quarter, the Athlete makes no Whereabouts Filing)."

As per WADA's Anti-Doping Violations Report, India is second behind Russia in terms of doping violations.

Crackdown on Top Indian Athletes

The top WADA officials targeted 13 top-level Indian athletes before the 2022 Commonwealth Games. During the preparation for the Commonwealth Games, the investigators began examining the doping practices (e.g., substances, sports, prevalence) and patterns of Indian Athletes.

Based on the findings, target testing was done on 13 high-level Indian Athletes training abroad (outside of India). The report mentioned, "Operation Carousel had been monitoring these Athletes for some time."

"Of the 13 Athletes targeted, four had not filed their mandatory Whereabouts and one had updated their Whereabouts at the last minute and falsely claimed to have been in India," the report said further.

One among those 13 athletes tested positive for an anabolic steroid and later admitted to violation resulting in a three-year ban on the athlete.

Corrective Measures adopted from WADA's support

As per the report, "In May 2023, NADA reported to Operation Carousel that between 17 November 2022 and 4 May 2023, it had discovered and recorded 97 Whereabouts Failures against 70 Athletes."

The WADA did not mention if any strict action will be taken against the Indian agency but it highlighted a few corrective measures adopted by NADA.

The report said, "NADA has strengthened its testing program by improving internal processes and bringing in significant additional resources, both human and financial. Moreover, NADA has doubled its sample collection staff, including doping control officers, and made significant improvements to its whereabouts management."

"Going forward, WADA’s Compliance Taskforce will continue to monitor the activities of NADA to ensure it upholds the high standards demanded by the Code and all related International Standards," the report concluded.

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