A doping scandal has hit Indian sports again and the conundrum continues, with the administration trying to fix the culprits for the positive dope tests of eight athletes.While the government has launched a probe, there is another voice, though subdued, that is trying to raise a different point altogether.The view is about the establishment unofficially providing assistance to athletes, much like it was done in the erstwhile East Germany and some other countries – and many believe it’s still being done in many. But those, especially in the establishment, who are in favour of this option, cannot openly say so for the obvious fear of being penalised.Several top officials privately feel that without taking help of performance enhancing substances, along with effective masking agents, most Indian athletes cannot win medals – or that they won’t win as many as they do now – at the highest level. The need of the hour is proper research with an aim to help athletes, they say.Although personally I oppose this take, officials say it’s not quite possible for Indians to win only by being fair, considering today’s cut throat competition and extraordinarily high stakes in every sport, particularly athletics. For them, there are only two options: either join the race of systematic doping, with subtle official patronage, or give up playing sport altogether.Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister once tried to stop India’s participation in global events after an extremely poor performance, but even he couldn’t get his idea executed, such was the opposition. So, while the second option is not possible, for that would be unfair on genuine champions like Viswanathan Anand, Pankaj Advani and Saina Nehwal who have excelled on the basis of their skills alone, many officials want the first option to be explored.advertisement”The witch-hunt that is currently going on will lead us nowhere. Those who have tested positive are not cheats; they are our national pride. The episode reflects the failure of our sports system in many ways,” said a top government sports administrator who didn’t want to be quoted.”Instead, let us help our athletes, most of whom come from poor backgrounds and lack in education, with proper research and set up a system that provides them a safe method to improve their performances with effective masking agents. I know saying this is going against the grain – when the entire country seems ready to execute the athletes who have doped – but, realistically speaking, there is no option,” he explained.Another official chipped in: “According to a rough estimate, 70 to 80 per cent athletes worldwide use masking agents. In India, we only do policing; there’s no other programme to provide athletes specialised assistance.” In sports that require physical superiority, Indians, largely due to their weak natural build, cannot match their rivals on their own, such officials say. “Let’s not fool ourselves by saying that the Indian sports establishment wants a clean environment even if our athletes keep on finishing last. Some athletes would surely win without taking banned drugs, but not the majority,” said one of them.Indian sports desperately needs professionals, especially in sports medicine, not ad-hoc administrators who get posted courtesy politicians. But to appoint the right person to the right position we need a real desire to see Indian athletes reach the top of the podium.Since sports is a specialised field we need to invite professional coaches, physiotherapists, trainers, dieticians, nutritionists etc. from abroad and make them train Indian athletes and coaches. When the Patiala-based National Institute of Sports was established in 1961, its faculty consisted of foreigners. “For several decades, we haven’t had any expert from abroad who can teach our would-be coaches so that they could learn the latest techniques and impart the same to our athletes,” said an official.
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