Doping in India: A Two Faced Coin under Sports Law

By | March 30, 2018
Doping in India SPorts Law concentrate

Last Updated on by Admin LB

The NADA Doping Code needs to be more expansive and clear on the doping offences in India which are committed due to ignorance and lack of information.


Sports has always been a part and parcel of humans since ancient times. It plays a key role in the development of the soul and body. But the changing scenario of today’s world has converted this celebration into a business. Physical traits like strength, endurance, speed, and power are now highly-priced and for maintaining these and keeping an edge over others, athletes follow strict nutritional programs.

These programs sometimes contain performance-enhancing drugs – which are considered unethical in the world of sports, primarily because these create an imbalance in the event and are against the principles of fair play. In sports terminology, the use of these drugs is prohibited and is known as ‘doping’. India has been a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2004, after signing the Copenhagen Declaration. It has established the National Anti-Doping Agency for fulfilling the purposes of fair play in the country. However, it seems like the night duty watchman is having a more sound sleep than the residents.

Doping – A two-faced coin

Doping is mainly done with the intent to cheat and to have an edge over the others. But in a country like India, where a majority of athletes come from rural backgrounds, the issue of lack of awareness is pretty evident. The doping infringements that take place in India are largely due to the lack of knowledge of banned substances and procedures, unlike those in western countries.

One of the most common pleas taken by the athletes before the Anti-Doping disciplinary panels are that they are unaware of the rules and the substances prohibited under the rules.[1]  Most ordinary medicines for curing illnesses or common pains contain banned substances.

Even daily use products contain banned substances. In National Anti-Doping Agency v. Jyotsna Pansare[2], a banned substance entered into the body of the athlete due to the use of a beauty product that contained geranium oil, hence, being an adverse analytical finding. While the sentence in the case was reduced, it was evident that an athlete getting the best of training does not have knowledge of the list of banned substances.

Also, in the case of Manjeet Singh v. NADA[3], the athlete was referred by the Sports Authority of India to doctors specializing in sports medicine. However, the doctors prescribed him the medicine containing the prohibited substance. Therefore, assurance that prohibited substances do not enter into the body of an athlete at every instance, cannot be expected.

It is also to be noted that many players are not well-versed in English. Indeed, there have been many cases in which athletes have raised pleas saying that they unknowingly committed the violation due to the lack of knowledge which led to the violation[4]. What happens next is that players do not know the procedures and the rights to contest cases before the disciplinary panels. Due to the fear of stringent punishment, they are compelled to forfeit their right to a fair hearing.

The laid back National Anti-Doping Agency [NADA]

NADA has always been acting as a prosecuting agency rather than being the agency spreading awareness about doping norms, rights and obligations of athletes and also the procedures to be followed by them.  Presently, the Sports Authority of India is educating the sportspersons in the national camps about doping norms; however, such information is only available to the players attending the national camps. These workshops contain lenient attendance compulsions and for state and district levels and so on, no information is provided to athletes at all. NADA has simply adopted the WADA Anti-Doping Code 2015 without considering its practical and legal implications in India.

In 2011, a committee was formed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports after a doping scandal was highlighted in which six Indian athletes were involved. The Committee made scathing remarks on NADA and gave possible solutions to the problems. In 2015 also, NADA has failed to implement most of the suggestions of the committee and continued to function in an unsatisfying manner. Also, there is an urgent need to do away with the present attitude of NADA’s Disciplinary Tribunals in case hearings because the career of the athletes are at stake and are adversely affected by the delays caused in the process.

In the case of Anandu S.S. v. NADA[5], due to the delays, the athlete was forced to file a writ petition to ensure an early hearing of the case. The enhancement of the punishment of doping by WADA[6] i.e. the four-year ban and lack of education among Indian athletes would be a disaster in Indian sport that has been accepted by the NADA with closed eyes. The NADA, due to the total adoption of the WADA Code[7]  and without any proper implementation structure, is leaving itself open to legal challenges and civil liabilities. A plethora of cases serves as pieces of evidence, exclaiming that NADA makes no efforts to spread awareness about the banned substances to the athletes absolutely.

A concluding look at possible solutions 

In the Indian context, the first and foremost step against the plague of doping is to create awareness among athletes. A list of prohibited or banned substances given by the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] must be provided by NADA to the athletes in regional languages at all levels. Each seminar of NADA for coaches, support personnel and players must include a practical, simple and effective demonstration of how the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System work.  Effective use of media platforms should also be made to disseminate anti-doping education.

The NADA Doping Code needs to be more expansive and clear on the doping offences in India which are committed due to ignorance and lack of information[8]. There should be a planned routine of doping tests (both in-competition and out-of-competition) and sporting federations must adhere to them. NADA should be more of a body apprising of the athletes of the harmful effects of doping, and the need to comply with norms, rather than discharging only the negative duty of punishing the athletes. Because in the end, it is against the spirit of sports.

[1] National Anti-Doping Agency v. Jaskaran Singh 14.ADDP.05.2014

[2] Appeal No. 13.ADAP.2012

[3] ADAP.12.2012

[4] NADA v Reena Bittan Appeal No. ADAP/01/2012.

[5] Appeal No. 06.ADAP.2014

[6] Article 10.2 2015 WADA Code

[7] 2015 World Anti-Doping Code

[8] Mukul Mudgal, Vidushpat Singhania; Law & Sports in India; 2nd Ed.; P.155

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