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450 officers will ensure Games are dope free

By Shweta Srinivasan, IANS,

New Delhi : Around 1,500 samples from athletes will be randomly tested to make the 2010 Commonwealth Games dope free. On the job will be some 450 Indians who are being selected and trained as dope control officers (DCOs).

“We will test some 1,500 samples. For this, we are training 447 DCOs,” Munish Chander, deputy director general (doping control) of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, told IANS.

“During major events like the Commonwealth Games, the athletes have to go through many rounds of selection trials and it is here that they take to prohibited performance-enhancing substances.”

Chander said after stringent scrutiny, people from a science, MBBS or physical education background were being selected as DCOs and trained in England, Austria and Germany.

“It would be an asset for the country to have internationally qualified DCOs and international standards of testing,” he said.

He said there was very little dope control awareness in India and fewer qualified sports medicine experts or dope control specialists.

“There are only around 50 professionally-trained DCOs who usually collect samples at sports events here, but the Commonwealth Games are too big an event.”

Delhi has the advantage of having the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) approved National Dope Testing Laboratory (NTDL), which is one of 35 in the world and one of six in Asia.

The Games doping control procedures and the lab came in for praise from Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Mike Fennell during his visit to Delhi last week.

The lab at Lodhi Road’s CGO complex in south Delhi will be fully operational during the Oct 3-14 Games. It has successfully conducted tests during the Commonwealth Shooting Championship, the Hockey World Cup and the Commonwealth Boxing Championship in the last one month to finetune the procedures.

P.S.M. Chandran, a sports medicine expert with the Sports Authority of India and president of the International Federation for Sports Medicine, said there is an acute shortage of manpower in sports medicine.

“Hopefully, this will be noted during the Games. The organisers should provide the best facilities to the home team as well to ensure better performance. The professionals inducted should preferably have experience in sports and should not be left in the hands raw government hospital doctors,” Chandran told IANS.

“So far 250-odd people have been selected and trained. It is a three-phase training programme and the candidates must get through a written test in July. We are choosing those with a background of medicine or science. Then they will be certified for two years,” said Chandran.

Sample collection stations will be set up at all major Games venues, including the Nehru Stadium and training venues.

The Games Village on the banks of the river Yamuna, which will accommodate 8,000 athletes and team officials, will also have pre-event sample collection stations.

Weight lifters, athletes, competitors in aquatic sports, wrestlers and boxers are usually on the radar of drug controllers looking out for the prohibited substances.

The Indian Wrestling Federation escaped a ban when several weightlifters tested positive last year. A fine of Rs.500,000 was slapped on it. The federation has previously been banned in 2004 and 2006 for drug abuse by its athletes.

Chander blames this on the ignorance of not only the athletes but also the training staff.

“It is sad that the 30-odd national sports federations don’t have a system in place or DCOs to educate the athletes, who are largely from a rural background with little knowledge about the prohibited substances. Our sports federations really need to educate the athletes so that they don’t suffer,” he said.

Chander said his department planned to release a series of booklets in regional languages or at least in Hindi on the dangers of drug abuse.