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Doping in Delhi: Athletes Run From Officials To Avoid Tests

BY: Rachel Boswell
28 September 2023

For athletes trying to run faster, it seems that nothing will get them moving quicker than the threat of being dope tested – if they’re guilty of wrongdoing, that is. 

These were the scenes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi on Tuesday [26 September], the closing day of the Delhi State Athletics Championship. 

Here, an eye-opening half of all athletes due to compete in the meet pulled out on discovering that officials from the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) had dropped by to conduct dope tests. Adults and juniors alike failed to show up for their disciplines, with some athletes quite literally trying to run away from the threat of giving samples.

Sprinting Suspicions

Only one athlete, Lalit Kumar, turned up for the men’s 100m final, while his absent seven competitors reportedly skipped the track race due to muscular problems and cramps. The likely reality is that these sprinters wanted to avoid getting tested and, as such, detected for using performance-enhancing drugs.

One NADA official – who has been associated with athletics for 30 years – even said it was “the first time [they] saw a 100 metres event with just one participant”, noting also how the number of competitors dropped by 50 per cent as soon as officials arrived at the stadium. 

Similarly, only three youths in the Under-20 100m final took to their starting blocks, and a lone Under-16 hammer thrower made it to their event. 

In the junior girl’s steeplechase, meanwhile, one athlete even continued to run after crossing the finish line in an almost farcical (and failed) mission to escape NADA officials. This really did put the ‘chase’ in steeplechase. 

If suspicions are well-founded, it is concerning how prevalent the use of performance-enhancing drugs is among youngsters competing in Delhi and trying to make headway in their sport. 

EPO in Athletics

These bewildering bids to dodge dope testing come just a day after piles of used syringes were found in a changing room at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. These syringes originally contained Recombinant Human Erythropoietin (EPO), a performance-enhancing, prescription drug used to treat anaemia and which athletes can obtain over the counter.

EPO has been found to boost haemoglobin in the blood and positively impact endurance athletes. But, longer term, the use of EPO can cause many problems, including damage to the blood circulation system. 

Sunny Joshua, president of the Delhi State Athletics, raised his concerns over the staggering dropout rate on Tuesday, with some athletes who did compete not even showing up to collect their medals. 

“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,” said Joshua. “Doping in athletics is a huge menace and we are firmly against it.”

What are your views on the desperate dope testing avoidance at the Delhi State Athletics Championship? Are tougher measures needed to stop athletes – of all ages and levels – from getting hold of performance-enhancing drugs? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Image credit: Navneet Singh

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