Friday, August 7, 2009

WADA and the ‘price’ sportspersons pay to compete

The Indian cricketers’ stance on WADA compliance has drawn a lot of comment, both positive and negative. I’d like to look at this issue another way: does the Indian cricket team need to comply with a standard WADA-directive?

Instead, why can’t ICC and BCCI and other notables from the cricket world formulate a dope testing norm that is better suited to the sport and ensure regular testing to keep the sport free of dope-criminals?

Why did IOC set up WADA to put an end to doping?

Before I get into that, let’s take a step back. WADA was established around 1999 to prevent doping in sports. Though WADA is an independent body, it was raised by the IOC (International Olympic Committee). Performance-enhancing drugs were tarnishing the glory and prestige of the Olympics and more importantly, the use of such drugs is detrimental to the health of sportsmen.

The Olympic Games are among the most prestigious brand of global sport, and a mega marketing opportunity [just like the IPL]. The IOC markets various rights related to the event, ‘owns’ athletes while they compete; and all event-related performance and images are the property of the IOC forever.

WADA is an important initiative that protects the brand and marketability of the Olympics.

Why have international athletes complied with an invasive whereabouts clause?

So now to come back to the contentious whereabouts issue which states: "every sportsperson must declare his/her whereabouts for 1 hour of every day for the next 3 months" and 'if the sportsperson is missing 3 times in a period of 18 months from the declared location, he/she will be banned from competing for a certain period".

Athletes who compete and hope to compete in the Olympics have signed it. Tennis pro's and FIFA initially objected, but then signed it since it is a pre-requisite for competing in the Olympics.

What is the ‘price’ every sportsperson must pay to keep sport drug-free?

Most of us (and that includes me) firmly believe that sports must be rid of doping and all efforts must be made to prevent manufacturing, trafficking and finally usage of performance enhancing drugs. Out-of-competition testing is an effective means of ensuring this.

Some of us, as the numerous public comments show, also feel that giving our location for 1 hour everyday for the next 90 days is a price we willingly pay to help rid sport of this malaise.

All Olympic athletes have signed on also because they have no choice and yes, they conscientiously update their locations on the WADA site.

Their passion for sport and pride in representing their country is, in this context, ‘controlled’ by the Olympics committee. This organisation can bar any athlete with adequate reason. [On another note, I hope this post will be received constructively, and not be seen as a ‘borderline infringement’ of any sort! J].

I must emphasize, I believe WADA serves a great cause. However, that in itself must not give anyone unlimited right over others.

WADA spends millions of dollars on research. So why isn’t it possible to come up with an alternative way for out-of-competition testing?

The practical issues around administering out-of-competition testing are also amusing, considering many of India's sportspersons have their roots in villages and often visit them, the addresses given out could be as unidentifiable as taal no 3, or quila no 6, near jhulli walan gali, Gandhi Nagar. Indian villages are not completely mapped or on GPS like the western world and finding such locations is quite impossible without the entire village knowing about outsiders looking very lost.

Can the discussion with BCCI & Indian cricket players help improve the system?

We should accept that Indian cricketers and the BCCI don’t ‘need’ brand Olympics to grow [neither did FIFA] and hence they are in a strong position to negotiate.

I don’t think we should put aside the very valid invasion of privacy and security-related issues the Indian cricket players have raised, until the BCCI and WADA can convince the players there’s a fool-proof system that will not let them down.

The risks arising from a leak are much too real and personal, for a sportsperson to ignore.

Let’s look at this issue another way: We all want to rid our country of crime. As conscientious citizens, are we willing to report to the police, for instance, our location for 1 hour (in daylight hours) everyday for the next 90 days? And will anyone not found 3 times at those locations be labeled a suspected criminal?

So, should the cricketers comply? Why should we sit on judgment if we are not willing to accept the same principle to rid our country of crime?

The cricket establishment has a unique opportunity to help improve a system that has worldwide compliance and protects athletes who commit years of training to compete at the highest level, from being cheated by dope-criminals.

Yes there is the issue of cricket being included as an Olympic game: lets not ignore this is also linked to marketing the Games and hence IOC’s need to control the process - besides the absolute need to keep the Games dope-free.

As an Olympic athlete, my humble view is: this is a case of the level of intrusion you are willing to accept to live your passion, to represent your country and for that ‘big opportunity’ to bring your dreams to life!


Anonymous said...

Good to see a frank perspective on this issue which has become a see-saw between cricketers and Indian sportsmen from all other disciplines. Great points raised!

Anonymous said...

Very well put. Bravo, Chilly.

A fan.

Ottayan said...

The only issue here is Indian cricketers are playing for the BCCI and not for the country. (Remember the BCCI is a private organsiation.)

అంజి బాబు said...

Mr. Rathore, thank you for serving the country like you have.

We all owe you for the great honour you had brought to the country.

Be a blessed Indian forever.

Mayor said...

Bravo Colonel. At last some one has the spine to say that the cricketers do have a point. Its true that all other cricketing federations have signed up for the WADA code. Why? they don't have the clout of BCCI to look IOC and WADA in the eye and say "if you don't care about our concern, then we don't care two hoots about your code as well". Cricket and BCCI is not at the mercy of IOC, and who cares if Olympics doesn't have cricket? Not even FIFA sends full fledged teams to Olympics. Its funny to see all and sundry suddenly jumping into the cricket-bashing bandwagon, as though cricket is the one sport which is going to bring sporting glory at Olympics to India. Cricket will be well advised to stay away from Olympics, unless WADA can accomodate the concerns of Cricketers. Cricket can live without Olympics and vice versa.

chilly said...

Dear Ottayan,

Thanks for writting in. By the same logic, IOC and IOA (Indian Olympic Association) are private bodies and the Olympic Team belongs to them.


reddevil said...

Fairly balanced perspective there..chilly

Can you tell me how IOC convinced FIFA to fall in line...or was it easier because Football is an olympic sport?

Som said...

Kudos Chilly. First time I came across an article by an Olympian which doesn't smack of jelousy while commenting on the Indian cricketers.

Make no mistake, I'm not a great fan of your cricket cousins and cringe as much whenever they open their mouth. (Of course there are glorious exceptions).

Cricketers have apparently raised a genuine issue, for the Rafael Nadals and the Serena Williams voiced similar concerns in recent past.

Now where they differ from the Indian cricketers is when they eventually signed on the dotted lines and I'm sure both murmurred unflattering unprintables about the WADA guys while doing so. But most importantly they did it.


I think deep in their mind, Nadals and Serenas realise they are not bigger than the game itself and even if relcutantly, they have to fall in line. If Roger Federer can do that, so can they.

I'm not sure if that is the case with the Indian cricketers and their patronising board.

Debate is always healthy and questioning is a sign of a healthy mind. But why is it so that every time our cricketers air a grievance, their own fans doubt their sincerity and sniff there is something sinister in it?

Goutham Chakravarthi L S said...

First: wonderful to see an Indian Olympian blog.

I am not buying the concept of BCCI flexing its muscle as portrayed by the Western media. FIFA and UEFA are against the 'whereabouts' clause as well.

We all want sports to be drug free and highly achieving athletes would want a clean chit as well. But if this is the only solution WADA can provide, it is spending its millions of dollars spent isn't giving them most prudent solution. It doesn't have the technology to identify drugs that disappear from the body in less than 24 hrs. This would work in the advantage of cheating athletes who know the time of the day when they might be tested!

Mr. Rathore, we'll be cheering you like mad at the London Olypics. Shoot the GOLD for us. No pressure, eh?

Soulberry said...

Chilly Saab, the balance of view befits a marksman, the systematic analysis to a General and the language belongs to a knowledgeable.

So different from the loose expression on our blogs.

I have but one question...a clarification - what does jurisdiction of ADO over an athlete as per WADA The Code 2009 mean? Does the information of a player participating in say a game (or on plain simple tourism) in Mexico or Jamaica or Karachi or Delhi be accessible to the NADOs or ADOs or IFs of those countries via the ADAMS system?

My premise is this jurisdiction business (as I understood it from reading) is a potential source of security leak.

You would be the best qualified man to explain both aspects to me, Chilly saab.

Thank you.

Raju said...

"Some of us, as the numerous public comments show, also feel that giving our location for 1 hour everyday for the next 90 days is a price we willingly pay to help rid sport of this malaise."

I feel the question is not whether cricket needs it or not- if cricket is a sport, and if cricketers represent a nation, then what makes them different from other sportsmen who take part in the Olympics?

Every sport should be drug-free, and if this is the only way to do it, let them do it.

I don't think the privacy or security of Sachin Tendulkar or Harbhajan Singh is at greater risk than that of Sania Mirza or Abhinav Bindra or yourself (and anyway, none of our cricketers live in villages, and when they drive around in conspicuous imported cars,doesn't that compromise their security?)

I am sorry to say, cricket is a lazy sport, and it is just that cricketers are too lazy to give updates every hour.

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