ICC's anti-doping policy August 2, 2009

Top Indian athletes fine with code

Cricinfo staff

John Fahey, the chairman of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), has reacted to the Indian board's refusal to sign the anti-doping code by saying the rules apply worldwide and have been accepted by 571 international sporting bodies. The security and privacy concerns raised by India's cricketers were also not shared by other leading Indian sportspersons to have been tested for drugs in the past.

WADA, which is an independent anti-doping watchdog set up by the International Olympic Committee, has already made it clear in a recent statement that no exemption to the code will be granted to any stakeholder. The ICC became a WADA signatory in 2006 and implemented the agency's amended code from January 1 this year.

MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh, who are among the 11 Indian cricketers in the ICC testing pool, maintained during the BCCI meeting on Sunday that they were not against anti-dope testing but security issues remained if they had to reveal their location in advance for an hour every day for the next three months to facilitate out-of-competition checks, as mandated by the 'whereabouts' norm in the amended WADA code.

Fahey said the rules in the code were meant for the effective and harmonious fight against doping. "The Code has been accepted by 571 sporting organisations ranging from International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, International Sports Federation," Fahey said. "This Code has been approved by 191 countries, and also by the UNESCO."

The BCCI president Shashank Manohar said after the meeting that the whereabouts clause was a violation to the right to privacy of players and went against the Indian constitution which guaranteed this right to every citizen. However, shooter Abhinav Bindra, athlete Anju Bobby George and former badminton player P Gopichand, three of India's most famous sportspersons apart from its cricketers, said that they have had no problems with the code and the 'whereabouts' clause.

Bindra, India's first individual gold medal winner in the Olympics, said security was not a consideration since the information provided was only going to the concerned officer and was strictly confidential. "Once you have your basic schedule for one quarter ready, you can keep updating the information," Bindra told the Times of India. "There have been instances when I haven't updated the information but then they are not coming to test you every single day. However, as an athlete you have to make a conscious effort to help the testers."

Gopichand, an All England champion, said the WADA clauses could cause inconvenience but players had to put up with it. "I would liken the WADA to a traffic police constable," Gopichand told the India Today magazine. "It can often cause inconvenience, but then let us not forget that they are a boon in the longer run. Nowadays, with the pressure to perform, it is very natural that the players might be tempted to take to unfair methods to achieve their ends. So this is where WADA comes in to ensure that players abide by the rules."

Bobby George, the first Indian athlete to win a medal at the World Championships in Athletics, said penalties were not imposed for missing every test. "Once during the monsoon, I had to advance my training and was not present at my home when the testers came," she said. "It happened again but luckily I was present when they came looking for me the third time." According to the WADA code, players can update their whereabouts information online or through SMS but they face stiff penalties, including a ban of upto two years, in case of three defaults in a quarter.