New Delhi: The Goa National Games, held from October 25 to November 9, 2023, have been marred by a doping scandal, as over 20 players have tested positive for banned substances. This is one of the biggest cases of doping in the country’s sports history, raising serious questions about the integrity and ethics of the athletes.
What did the doping tests reveal?
The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), which is responsible for conducting and monitoring dope tests in India, collected samples of the participants during the Goa National Games. Out of the 1,200 samples collected, over 20 were found to contain prohibited substances, such as steroids, stimulants, diuretics, and masking agents.
Some of the players who tested positive were medal winners, while some were also international players who had represented India in various competitions. According to sources, the majority of the offenders were from track and field events (nine) and weightlifting (seven). The other sports that reported positive cases were cycling, boxing, wrestling, and judo.
Who are the prominent players involved?
Among the players who have been suspended by NADA for doping are two-time Commonwealth Championship bronze medalist Vandana Gupta and national-level cyclist Anita Devi. Both of them had won gold medals in their respective categories in the Goa National Games.
Vandana Gupta, a 29-year-old weightlifter from Uttar Pradesh, had lifted a total of 207 kg in the women’s 76 kg category in Goa. She had also won bronze medals in the 63 kg category at the 2013 and 2017 Commonwealth Championships. She is one of the seven weightlifters who failed the dope test, and the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) source told PTI that the number may increase in the coming days.
Anita Devi, a 27-year-old cyclist from Manipur, had clinched the gold medal in the women’s 40 km individual time trial in Goa. She also participated in the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Asian Cycling Championships. She was suspended by NADA on December 6, after her sample tested positive for a stimulant.
What action has been taken against them?
NADA has imposed temporary suspension on all the players who have tested positive for doping, pending further investigation and hearing. The players have the right to request for a confirmatory analysis of their B samples, and to present their defense before the NADA disciplinary panel. If found guilty, they may face a ban ranging from two to four years, depending on the nature and severity of the violation.
The players may also lose their medals, rankings, and records that they achieved in the Goa National Games, as well as any other events that they participated in after the collection of their samples. They may also face legal action from their respective sports federations, state associations, and employers.
How prevalent is doping in Indian sports?
Doping is a serious problem that plagues Indian sports, especially at the national and state levels, where the awareness and enforcement of anti-doping rules are low. According to NADA’s annual reports, the number of positive cases in India has increased from 69 in 2015 to 182 in 2022. The most affected sports are athletics, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, and cycling.
The Goa National Games are not the first instance of doping in a multi-sport event in India. In the 2015 National Games in Kerala, 16 players tested positive for doping, while in the 2022 edition in Gujarat, the number was 10. In the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, four Indian athletes were caught doping, including gold medalist Sini Jose.