It has been quite a year for Hima Das who caught everyone’s fancy from the time she surfaced as a quartermiler in the Federation Cup in Patiala. After having been under the spotlight on the track and in the arc-lights, posing for magazine covers, the Assam teenager seems to have been identified by National Anti-Doping Authority (NADA) to be a part of its Registered Testing Pool (RTP).
Of course, there is no certainty that NADA will test all athletes on the RTP frequently.
After all, a recent report, based on an RTI application, revealed that NADA tested more hockey players than other athletes in the year’s first half. To say that hockey is a very high-risk sport – because of the possibility of winning medals and the popularity of the game – to justify its decision to choose more hockey players for out of competition testing is to ignore its own database.
A cursory scanning of the ADDP decisions on 840-plus cases will reveal that nearly half of these come from the two disciplines of athletics and weightlifting. There have been just six hockey players who have been sanctioned by ADDPs since its inception in 2009. Indeed, it is a good example of how NADA has been missing the woods for the trees.
It must soon correct its test distribution plan to be seen as leading the fight against doping. It must take into account factors like a sport’s practitioners’ instances of doping and focus on the elite levels a bit more than it has. Of course, it cannot ignore doping at the grass-root level and must have a fair percentage of tests for athletes under the age of 18.
Yet, it conducted a whopping 35 per cent of the 2062 tests from January to July at the Khelo India School Games. In a year in which Indians did well in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, it would not have been wrong to expect that the bulk of the testing would be of the elite athletes heading to these events.
Despite talk of Hima Das being placed on the RTP, NADA is yet to publish an updated list. For all you know, it is still in the process of finalising the list. It will do well to compile the list after consultations with experts from outside NADA. Of course, it can form an independent panel of erstwhile national coaches and retired athletes to draw up its RTP.
With a bunch of elite athletes set to train overseas in the run-up to the World Championship next year and the Olympic Games in 2020, NADA’s challenges will only grow. It must take upon itself the task of testing the elite athletes more frequently and enhance the confidence of the sport’s supporters that the track and field stars are votaries of clean sport.
It does not have domain experts in house who can identify the athletes to be listed on RTP. One of the easiest other things for it to do would be to use the list of athletes funded by the Sports Authority of India’s TOP Scheme as a benchmark. And this list will be a good pointer to who SAI and the National Sports Federations see as having the potential to make a mark in Tokyo2020.
The moot question is: Will NADA get its RTP and test distribution plan right in the time ahead?