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‘We are not criminals’

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Indian cricketers, who have been included in the International Registered Testing Pool (IRTP), are unlikely to sign on the dotted line of the WADA ‘whereabouts’ rules contract.

The contentious issue relating to the anti-doping policy will come up for discussion at an emergency working committee meeting of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in Mumbai on August 2. The meeting is also expected to take up other issues related to the anti-doping activities of the Board.

IRTP list

The players on the IRTP list are: Sachin Tendulkar, M.S. Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel. The women’s team members Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj are also in the list.

These players were selected in the IRTP as per their rankings on January 15, 2009. Initially, the deadline for complying with the WADA whereabouts requirement was July 1 but it was extended by a month.

The players will have to update the information regularly through a web-based data management system named ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration and Management System).

Security issue

The cricketers are not inclined to divulge information that they deem “too personal” and which might, in some cases, endanger their lives. “Security is certainly an issue with the top cricketers,” confirmed a top Board official.

One of the players confessed, “I would not be comfortable at all. Why should they want to track our movements? Are we out on some parole or what? I will not allow anyone to intrude on my privacy,” he said.

Another top cricketer confirmed, “None of us would sign. It will be like giving the WADA a camera to constantly monitor what we are doing. We are sportsmen, not criminals. If they so desire, let the WADA test us every day when we are competing!”

A Board official defended the cricketers. “I can understand why they are uncomfortable. In the Indian context it can be difficult because it can expose their movements and subsequently create security problems.”

The Board official confirmed that at the time of agreeing to be WADA-compliant, the Indian officials were not aware of this clause of keeping the anti-doping agency informed about the players’ whereabouts.

Unacceptable

A player, however, confirmed that as long as six months ago the Board had been clearly told that this clause was not “acceptable.”

The Indian cricketers were briefed by an ICC official during the team’s tour of New Zealand and explained about the whereabouts rule.

“I am prepared to be tested every day when I am playing in any part of the world. But, when I am not playing, I don’t want to be disturbed at all by anyone in the name of an anti-doping rule,” said a player listed in the IRTP. The players were unwilling to be named.

WADA’s ‘whereabouts’ rules require an athlete to give his whereabouts during a one-hour time slot, any time between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. each day of the year. The information can be updated every three months.

The ICC revised its rules to fall in line with the 2009 Code, prepared after two years of consultations with all stakeholders.

Athletes can update their 60-minute time slot and their whereabouts at all times by mailing or messaging their relevant anti-doping organisation.

Three missed tests will count as one anti-doping rule violation, leading to a suspension ranging from one to two years.

A WADA spokesman said from Montreal on Thursday that no exemption to the Code was granted to any federation and WADA expected all stakeholders to follow the rules. He added that WADA would look into the enforcement by Code signatories at the end of the year to assess the situation.

An impression has been created in the Indian cricket Board circles that FIFA, the international football federation, had received an exemption from the whereabouts rules for two years. Several international sportsmen have come out against the new rules, but several others, including Roger Federer, have come out in support of them.

Corrections and Clarifications

The expansion of WADA, that was used nine times in a report "'We are not criminals'" ("Sport", July 31, 2009) is World Anti-Doping Agency, which aims to promote a dope free culture in sport. It works to implement the World Anti-Doping code in sports. It was established on November 10, 1999. Its seat is in Lausanne, Switzerland, and its headquarters are in Montreal, Canada.

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