Doping is an unethical process committed in order to gain an unfair advantage over competitors. It usually includes consuming drugs that unnaturally affect the functioning of the body, thereby leading to greater results. There have been multiple reported instances of athletes committing the act of doping, which, when caught, had to face penal consequences, and at times it even led to a very down-casted and miserable end to their sporting career. The primary focus of this blog is to discuss doping, the international and national supervisorial agencies (WADA and NADA), and lastly, it will analyse and suggest a few reforms to the anti-doping code in India. An in-depth examination of anti-doping in India is necessary in light of the prevalence of doping there. The accumulation of all such issues certainly calls for some early and effective reforms by the respective authorities.
Due to the unjustness attached to doping, it can also be termed as corruption in sports. It is a process of injecting certain types of prohibited drugs that unfairly enhances the performance of an athlete. Considerable growth in the field of biotechnology has led to the development of newer and advanced forms of drugs for doping. There is a long list of multiple athletes who were caught doping, which includes the former Russian number one tennis star Maria Sharapova, Tour de France 2010 winner Alberto Contador and one of the most iconic cyclists, Lance Armstrong. One famous instance of doping came in 1994, when the then-greatest Argentinian football player Diego Maradona tested positive for multiple ephedrine variants, leading to his elimination from the World Cup. To counter the practice of doping, World Anti-Doping Agency was formed as an independent international agency in 1999. Primary initiatives include scientific study, imparting, and strengthening the anti-doping potential. A unified guideline known as World Anti-Doping Agency Code is also monitored by WADA, which unites the anti-doping policies across all sports and nations. WADA also maintains a list of prohibited substances, which includes more than 190+ banned substances. These drugs are divided among various forms, such as stimulants (directly affect the nervous system), Anabolic steroids (a synthetic version of testosterone), blood doping (increases overall blood flow), human growth hormones (drastically increases the work-rate of the heart and muscle mass leading to unusually fast recovery) and Erythropoietin (increases aerobic capacity during an event). The World Anti-Doping Convention is now the second most ratified convention of UNESCO, with more than 190 state parties ratifying it. Even though these steps have been taken, there has been a notable rise in overall doping consumption globally, especially in India, where a lot of athletes, due to competitive, financial, or various other reasons, are moved towards the dark web of doping.
NATIONAL ANTI-DOPING AGENCY AND ITS ISSUES
The National Anti-Doping Agency is the Indian anti-doping agency that was established in 2005 to keep surveillance over all domestic athletes. It maintains a separate National Anti-Doping Code, which is in consonance with the WADA’s Anti–Doping Laws, and also further coordinates with WADA in its anti-doping drive. Despite being in existence for around two decades, doping is still highly prevalent in India. Especially in 2019, there was a massive surge in cases; out of the 4004 athletes tested, around 225 athletes have violated various sections of the national anti-doping code. There have been some long-standing issues that should be quickly resolved by NADA. A few of them include: –
Lack of Awareness and Education: One significant challenge for NADA is the lack of awareness and education regarding anti-doping regulations among athletes, coaches, and support staff. Many athletes may unintentionally violate anti-doping rules due to insufficient knowledge. NADA took the international codes without considering the ground realities. Unfortunately, many athletes ingest illegal substances without being aware that they are all outlawed. Many athletes depend on their sporting careers for the rest of their lives. Along with medals or recognition, they also look for additional benefits, the most important of which is a government job or the monetary awards given by the government or various organizations. There is one plausible solution to it. NADA should invest in extensive education and outreach programs to raise awareness about the consequences of doping, provide comprehensive information on prohibited substances and methods, and promote ethical sporting practices. Collaborating with sports federations, conducting workshops, and using digital platforms can help reach a broader audience and ensure a better understanding of anti-doping policies. Sessions on the negative effects of doping should be made mandatory at all of the training camps, especially those that are located in rural areas. In comparison to urban areas, literacy and awareness of such issues are significantly lower in rural communities.
Challenges With Anti-Doping Adjudication: NADA established the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) and Anti-Doping Appeal Panel (ADAP) in India to adjudicate cases involving doping offenses. The ADDP has been criticized for making erroneous decisions, such as applying more prolonged sanctions than warranted or copying paragraphs from previous orders that are irrelevant to the current case. Disparities in interpreting rules have been observed in India, and the adjudicators may need help to meet minimum procedural guarantees outlined in the World Anti-Doping Code, resulting in delays in resolving disputes. The affordability of legal representation, expert evidence, and laboratory analysis further exacerbate the situation. Indian athletes rarely exercise their right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which raises concerns about access to justice in the country’s anti-doping dispute resolution framework. Delays in the results management process, including the hearing process, have been reported in India, with instances of significant delays surpassing prescribed time limits. Such delays are inconsistent with the Code and NADA Rules, highlighting the need for a comprehensive study to assess systemic issues and timely workshops and seminars to educate panel members.
Limited Resources: Due to the unprecedented rise in athletes in India, NADA may confront resource limitations in terms of financing, staffing, and infrastructure. These restrictions may make it more difficult for them to carry out thorough and effective testing programs and research projects. Governments, sports organisations, and other stakeholders must assist and provide NADA enough funding to operate effectively. Through these additional funds, NADA can improve anti-doping activities, upgrade testing facilities, and hire more skilled personnel. To use greater resources, public-private partnerships can also be looked into.
Evolving Doping Techniques: Doping techniques are constantly evolving, with athletes and their support teams finding new techniques to bypass detection methods. This poses a significant challenge for NADA as they need to stay ahead of these developments. NADA should collaborate with scientific research institutions and anti-doping agencies worldwide to stay updated on emerging doping trends and develop new detection methods. Regular investment in research and technology will enable NADA to adapt to evolving doping practices and enhance its ability to catch violators. To improve cooperation, NADA should actively interact with international organisations like WADA and participate in international events regarding the same. The overall efficiency of anti-doping measures around the world can be improved by exchanging best practices of various nations and collectively working while sharing critical information or intelligence.
Doping remains a significant issue in the world of sports, leading to unfair competition and tarnishing the integrity of athletic endeavours. The formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in India were crucial steps to combat this problem. However, other than the ones mentioned above, several issues persist within the anti-doping system, particularly in India. Events like the National Drug Testing Laboratory’s suspension by WADA demonstrate the inept attitude of the authorities. The only national-level testing laboratory is NDTL, and its suspension has a significant negative impact on the fight against doping. It took around two years for NDTL to get back its accreditation. While the lab was suspended, the samples were sent to other nations, which led to a significant increment in the cost of testing and a drastic drop in the number of samples tested. Quick resolution of these issues will not only create an equal ground and remove the unfairness that ethical sportspersons face, but it will also raise robust competition by promoting and encouraging healthy and safe preparation methods. Funding also plays a crucial role as a well-funded and well-equipped NADA can conduct more comprehensive testing and investigations, creating a stronger deterrence against doping. Even international cooperation with scientific institutions or other anti-doping organizations can enable NADA to develop cutting-edge detection techniques, increasing the chances of catching athletes who use sophisticated or newly developed advanced doping methods. It is crucial for NADA to continuously evolve and adapt to new challenges to maintain its effectiveness in the fight against doping. Regular evaluation and improvement of strategies and collaborations will be vital in addressing emerging issues and preserving the integrity of sports.
Author(s) Name: Ishan Sharan Kauhsik (The National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi)