I have been competing for almost a decade now and know what happens around me. But if a young kid starts athletics today and sees what is happening on the circuit, they will just quit and go home. What happened at the Delhi state meet is a reality check and should open the eyes of officials and sports administrators in the country.
In the 1500m, that I also competed in, around 24 came for the heats but when the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) officials arrived, most of them didn’t return to take part in the race. A day earlier when the officials weren’t present, the same athletes bagged medals in long-distance events. They didn’t even come to the ground.
There needs to be a solution for this doping menace or else genuine athletes like me, who are away from their families for training, will suffer. I am an experienced athlete and have represented the county on several occasions and have spent time at the national camp. But when young athletes compete against dopers, they are bound to get discouraged and quit the sport, if not start doping themselves.
The only way to keep dopers at bay is to do random testing. The NADA office is just a stone’s throw away, they should take samples of athletes training at the JawaharLal Nehru Stadium. The overall performance may come down if testing is increased, but it will at least ensure that only clean and deserving athletes progress.
Private coaches, with no or little qualifications, are one of the main reasons for this mess. When kids start, they have no idea and some coaches take advantage of it. Instead of telling them to be patient and work hard, they give them pills and tell them that they would have to take them if they want to win a medal. The youngsters, in most cases, don’t even know what they are asked to consume.
Doping only yields short-term benefits. These dopers fizzle out when they reach the national level because testing is more stringent there. I follow double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar’s principles and have always stayed away from any performance-enhancing drugs.
I have grown up watching Sushil Singh training at the Chhatrasal Stadium. His work ethic was second to none and I have learnt from him that there are no short-cuts in sports. I have been at the camp where they conduct random dope tests and have given my samples on numerous occasions while taking part in international meets. We need to protect our genuine athletes or else the dopers will just eat into their opportunities.
Since 2016, no promising athlete has emerged from the Delhi- Haryana region and the reason is that they can’t sustain their performance without doping. Athletes don’t have adequate knowledge and focus on short-term benefits. No one guides them. All they want is to somehow reach the Nationals and hope they aren’t tested there and win a medal. A medal at the national level allows them to apply for jobs in the Railways and Income Tax.
The Delhi State meet was a four-day event and the NADA officials skipped the first two days. The results were really good then and some even clocked timings close to the age- group national records. However, the same athletes did not even turn up for their events after NADA officials arrived on the third day. Even previous year’s state champions skipped.
When I arrived in Delhi to train at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, things weren’t this bad. At that time, these private coaches weren’t there. But now there is a competition between these coaches and they use young athletes for their own interest. Until 2016, Delhi athletes were doing well and even won international medals, but now performances have dried up. Doping can take you only to a certain level. The media also has a vital role to play. They have to highlight such instances of doping so that NADA and other sports officials are on their toes.
The writer was the 2015 Doha Youth Asian Champion in 800m