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Doping: the myths and reality

K.P. Mohan

NEW DELHI: Quite a confusion is being created by officials, both in India and Pakistan, some unnamed, about the rules and regulations that govern anti-doping measures in the world of sports in the wake of the ‘positive’ returned by Mohammad Asif.

Asif tested positive in the IPL and is now under suspension by the PCB. He has sought his ‘B’ sample test and he will have the opportunity to place his side of the argument before a three-member IPL Drugs Tribunal.

We give below a list of points that have come up during the past three days with regard to dope-testing and results management procedures and analyse what is myth and what is reality:

Myth No 1: A competitor can write down the drugs he had been taking in the doping form and if the substance that he tests positive for happens to be listed in that form, no further action is necessary; he will be let off.

Reality: Nothing can be farther from the truth. Mere listing of drugs in a form is no licence to dope-taking. He will be charged and proceeded against. If the substance happens to be a stimulant that comes under the ‘specified substances’ category, the offender may have the chance to prove his innocence and seek a lesser punishment in case he has listed that medicine.

Myth No. 2: A Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) is the way to dope.

Reality: True, a TUE gives an athlete the chance to take a prohibited substance in certain medical conditions, but a TUE is granted by a panel of experts only after satisfying that such a medication is absolutely necessary for the athlete’s health and there is no substitute. For example, an athlete applying for a TUE for an asthma medication is expected to produce results of a series of tests and if the authorities are not satisfied the competitor may be subjected to on-the-spot tests to verify whether he actually suffers from asthma and the TUE he is carrying is in order.

Myth No. 3: Recreational drugs (opium, hashish etc) are not prohibited substances in sports and they are not performance-enhancing.

Reality: They are indeed prohibited in sports under the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) list and they are also performance-enhancing.

Myth No. 4: A competitor can argue that he took a medicine prescribed by a doctor and that might have caused the ‘positive’ test and can thus get away.

Reality: The athlete is responsible for what he ingests. Ignorance is no excuse.

Myth No. 5: An athlete can say the drug might have got in through the supplements he was taking and thus get a reprieve.

Reality: The ‘supplements’ excuse had long been rejected by all anti-doping agencies and there is rarely a way of getting a favourable verdict. (Asif and Shoaib Akhtar were, however, reprieved by an appeals panel of the PCB in 2006 on the argument of ‘supplements’.)

Myth No. 6: Being in possession of a recreational drug is an offence under WADA regulations.

Reality: An athlete caught outside of a competition with a drug that is not banned out-of-competition (e.g. All recreational drugs) will not be proceeded against under WADA rules.

Myth No. 7: Once a competitor is identified as the one who has committed an anti-doping offence by matching the code number on the form returned by the laboratory with the master copy available with the testing authority then his name can be made public.

Reality: Mere identification of the offender does not give an authority to reveal the name of an athlete. A few procedures have to be completed before the name can be made public.

Myth No. 8: WADA tests sportspersons in competitions around the world.

Reality: WADA does not test in-competition at all.

Myth No. 9: The PCB is a signatory to the WADA Code.

Reality: WADA does not have national federations in any sport as signatories. It expects the international federation in a particular sport to be a signatory and also expects the rules to be applicable to all the affiliated units of that international federation.

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