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`Anti-doping battles must be waged'

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: "After a 30-year battle, victory is hardly in sight" in the fight against doping in sport and yet battles must be waged, said Dr M. Jegathesan here on Thursday. "If you persist, eventually you will reach the goal."

Dr. Jegathesan, two-time Asian Games sprint champion from Malaysia, who is the Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation's Medical Commission, said that among the several unresolved issues were the unavailability of a universally acceptable test for human growth hormone, nutritional supplements and unscrupulous chemists who were ever willing to adjust molecules in order to prevent a substance being detected.

In his keynote address at the National Congress on Sports Medicine, Dr. Jegathesan touched upon the lack of legal teeth in tackling the doping menace, the "slap on the wrist" for Balco perpetrators in the US, and the difficulties encountered in implementing rules regarding `whereabouts' forms and therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs).

Whereabouts

He said that the gap between theory and implementation was big when it came to `whereabouts' forms that are used to keep track of elite athletes throughout the course of the year in order to carry out surprise dope-testing.

"Deter those who use illicit means, protect and not penalise those who are clean," is the message from Dr. Jegathesan, who is also a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Medical and Anti Doping Commission.

Dr Jegathesan also spoke about gender determination in sports, gene doping and altitude chambers.

He said after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had done away with chromatin (buccal smear) test to determine the sex of an athlete, incidental disclosures, during a dope testing procedure, for example, and specific charges by others were being used to address the issue. Even then, extreme care was being taken to tackle this complex issue with various experts being called in before a decision was taken.

He warned that methodology was available for gene doping to be in place in time for the Bejing Olympic Games 2008, but the authorities were already on the move for pre-emptive strikes.

Altitude chambers, available in the international market for $20,000 each, were being used by sportspersons to simulate high altitude conditions in order to gain an advantage.

"This is a grey area. Athletes can in any case go into the high altitude venues and train of course, but should we allow an artificial aid, that is the question" he said.

Sydney Olympic medallist weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, and world champion woman boxer Marykom were among the special invitees. Lt. Col. Rajyvardhan Singh Rathore, the Athens Olympics silver winner, who was expected to attend, could not do so and instead conveyed his wishes to the congress through an audio-visual message.

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