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India's golden girls go from fame to shame

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New Delhi: That the menace of doping has reared its ugly head in Indian sports again is a matter of no surprise. In a span of two days, five athletes have been proved to have used banned substances to improve their performance at international meets. What you did not, however, know was that 122 positive cases have been reported in an 11-month period starting from May 2010.
These numbers are authentic and have been confirmed by the National Anti Doping Agency, a body that now says will take stringent action against all guilty athletes.
Just over 10 months ago, Sini Jose and Mandeep Kaur were the toast of the nation. The two athletes were part of the famed quartet that won gold in the 4x400m relay in both the Delhi Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in China. But with both of them having tested positive for using anabolic steroids, the reputation of Indian athletics is being torn to shreds.

Apart from Jose and Kaur, top quarter-miler Jauna Murmu, another 400m runner Tiana Mary Thomas and shot putter Sonia have returned postive for anabolic steroids in their 'A' samples that were collected by NADA during the June 11 to 14 National Inter-State Athletics Meet in Bangalore.
The Indian Athletics Federation that has provisionally suspended the two athletes - Jose and Kaur - on Wednesday has now done a u-turn raising questions about the dope test itself.
But the real question is whether systematic doping is rampant in Indian sport.
The spate of positive dope tests couldn't have come at a worse time for Indian sport which was basking in the glory of record medal hauls at both the Commonwealth Games and the Asiad. Earlier weightlifting had seen an assembly line of dope cheats and now athletics is joining that list of shame.
The Indian Olympic Association Acting President VK Malhotra on Friday said that "till a judicial enquiry is held and exemplary punishments are given, this will go on".
Malhotra said he has now asked the Athletics Federation to give a complete report and added that "dope test must be made compulsory before they for any game, at any games village.
"The players will be suspended till they get clearances and they will not be allowed to participate in Olympics. Our chances of winning medals have gone down."
The legendary Milkha Singh told CNN-IBN that the athletes aren't the only ones to be blamed and their coaches too are at fault.
"This is not the first time that our players have been caught doping. In the past too they have been caught in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and they have had to return their medals. It has brought a bad name to India.
"These girls (Jose and Kaur) had made the nation proud by winning medals at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, but have now become the reason for shame. Strict action should also be taken against their coaches."
NADA Director General Rahul Bhatnagar told CNN-IBN that the organisation will increase the number of tests before the 2012 London Olympics. "We don't want our athletes to be caught before the Olympics. We will go to the extent of checking the players' rooms if need be."
The NADA, which was set up two years ago, collected more than 2,600 samples last year and plan to collect 3,500 sampels this year.
"We want to make it 4,500 next year, so that it acts as a deterrent for any athlete contemplating a shortcut to success," Bhatnagar said.
Bhatnagar added that if the increase in tests proved unsuccessful then NADA would follow the Australian model of surprise raids to capture would-be cheats.
NADA also said it was almost impossible to distinguish the "ignorant from the cheat" as most of India's athletes come from poor families with a limited education.
"They come up with various excuses before the hearing panel and invariably claim they have no idea how the illegal substance got into their system.
"But the buck stops with the athlete. We are not dealing with school students but national level athletes, who have reached a certain level, where they are expected to know these things."
Even athletes who claim to have used a drug for medicinal reasons need to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption certificate. This allows them to be exempted even if he or she tested positive for a banned substance present in that medicine.
The role of the coaches too is sure to be brought back under the scanner and even they should not be allowed to escape their responsibility.
The anti-doping authorities say that they will increase the frequency of surprise tests and even search the rooms of the athletes if that's what it takes to tackle the scourge of doping. Unfortunately though, the damage has been done and the aura of the hat-trick of relay gold at the Asiad has been punctured.

Read more at:http://ibnlive.in.com/news/indias-golden-girls-go-from-fame-to-shame/164182-5-23.html

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