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Don’t be a dope, keep off drugs

Posted January 11th, 2018, 10:51 AM IST

Don’t be a dope, keep off drugs

The myth of cricket being hailed as a dope-free sport has been busted. In its transformation from a genteel game considered best for gentlemen to a modern spectacle of power and pyrotechnics, cases of doping violations are slowly emerging. The latest revelation from BCCI that all-rounder Yusuf Pathan flunked a dope test has sent shock waves across the country’s cricketing fraternity as it was only the second instance in India after Delhi pacer Pradeep Sangwan served out his suspension after failing a dope test. It is intriguing why BCCI chose to announce the Pathan sentence almost at the end of the ban period unless the board was trying to deflect attention from the Team India defeat at Newlands.

A highly-informed official who worked in BCCI’s anti-doping wing says the advent of Twenty20 has made cricketers rely more on strength and power like baseball, a sport in which doping is rampant. The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) decision to introduce the Anti-Doping Code in 2010, which BCCI had also to comply with, coincided with the early years of T20 cricket. “T20 is where the money is. And as this format continues to grow, cricketers are looking to evolve as supreme athletes with more emphasis on building strength and power. If you don’t have proper guidance while taking supplements, you inadvertently make a mistake,” said the key official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.





Yusuf, a member of India’s 2011 World Cup winning team, has vowed to be more careful with medications after the BCCI accepted his plea that the violation was inadvertent. BCCI found in a test that Yusuf had ingested a prohibited substance that is commonly found in cough syrups. For all domestic tournaments, including the IPL, the BCCI employs a Swedish agency — International Doping Tests & Management (IDTM) — to collect samples and conduct tests. More than 3,000 cricketers including women and juniors undergo the anti-doping education programme every year. BCCI has also set up a dedicated 24x7 helpline for players to get clarity on a medication.

However, the anti-doping code still remains a complex subject to deal with for cricketers as the drug regulations are lengthy and hard to understand for a young athlete, who has to depend on professional advice of team support members like physios and doctors. “Every year, the cricketers are given a booklet which explains the do’s and don’ts. But, I wouldn’t blame a player if he doesn’t understand it because the list of prohibited substances is a massive one. The list will be updated every year on January 1 when Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) puts out the revisions and additions on its website. The changes are complex and it so happens that even doctors don’t get it 100 per cent right. That’s why we have set up a helpline,” said the official.

The official said there were misconceptions that BCCI doesn’t comply with Wada. “All Indian cricketers, including the likes of Dhoni and Kohli, have been submitting details of their whereabouts as per the ICC Anti-Doping Code under the Wada charter since 2010.” All cricketers are subject to surprise dope tests at any time in the year, and some international stars are frequently tested.

Yusuf Pathan is fortunate that his doping ban does not stretch beyond six months because it could be an inadvertent first offence. He is eligible to put his name in the IPL auction. It will be interesting to see if the doping ban will have any effect on the bids that come for him. His case is, however, a strict warning for young cricketers who may be misled to believe they can cheat by taking supplements to build their body up in order to hit the ball harder and farther.

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