ONLY ONE participant in the final of the men’s 100 metres; a steeplechase athlete who kept running after crossing the finish line to evade dope testing; several winners skipping the medal ceremony as they were worried about being asked to give samples.
The final day of the Delhi State Athletics Championship (September 23-26), at the warm-up track of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the national capital, turned into a cat-and-mouse game between athletes and doping control officers on Tuesday.
The number of participants fell by half as news spread that National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) officials had dropped in, a day after a purported video clip of the washroom at the stadium showed piles of used syringes.
“We have eight finalists in the track events, but only three or four turned up (on Tuesday). This is the state of affairs. In the junior steeplechase event, a girl continued to run even after crossing the finish line. A doping control officer had to chase her to get her sample,” a senior coach told The Indian Express.
In the men’s 100-metres final, Lalit Kumar was the lone athlete at the starting blocks. The rest of the seven sprinters, Kumar said, told him they were suffering from “cramps” or “muscle strain”.
For Kumar, who was competing in his first senior-level event, the sudden disappearance of his fellow competitors was an eye-opener. “I was really looking forward to running against the best athletes, but nobody turned up. Everyone was scared of getting tested. As an athlete, I feel very hurt and let down,” he told The Indian Express.
“It’s the first time I saw a 100-metres event with just one participant. As soon as the NADA officials arrived, the number of participants dropped to 50 per cent,” said an official who has been connected with the sport for three decades.
In the Under-20 boys’ 100-metres final, only three of the finalists turned up. The Under-16 boys’ hammer throw saw just one participant.
“Some of the athletes did not even turn up to collect their medals,” said Delhi State Athletics Association president Sunny Joshua.
Joshua said they were concerned about the dropouts, but there was little they could do. “Our job is to educate the athletes and coaches, but we can’t constantly monitor what they are doing during practice or behind our backs. Doping in athletics is a huge menace and we are firmly against it,” he said.
Meanwhile, empty packets of Recombinant Human Erythropoietin (EPO) injection, which is used as a performance enhancing drug, could be seen in the washroom on Tuesday.
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“This is a prescription drug that is used in the treatment of anaemia. But chemists don’t care, and athletes get it over the counter. The drug boosts haemoglobin in the blood and can help endurance athletes,” said Dr P S M Chandran, a sports medicine expert.
EPO usage can have adverse effects, including causing damage to the blood circulation system, he warned. “Athletes don’t care about the effects. They just want shortcuts,” he said.
Coach Arvind Kapur, who has trained 400-metres and 4×400 metres relay specialist Amoj Jacob, said: “Sometimes a coach gives an extra workout to young athletes knowing that they are going to compete against dopers, and that can cause injuries. I always tell my athletes to wait patiently. There are no shortcuts.”
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