Indian weightlifting has been grappling with ‘doping’ over many years now. Over the last ten years or so the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has suspended the Indian Weightlifting Federation twice and even had let off the Indian body with a hefty fine in 2009. The ‘doping-ravaged Indian weightlifting’ appeared to have battled its way in the last few years as the country emerged doping-free at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games picking up fourteen medals, with none of our lifters coming under ‘suspicion’.
Indian weightlifting under doping scanner
But the recent development of India’s ace woman weightlifter Geeta Rani being tested positive among nine others at the 2015 National Games in Kerala, has once again reignited concerns over our weightlifters not being able to wriggle out of the ‘doping net’. The 34-year-old Punjab lifter, who snapped up a gold medal in the 75kg category at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, joins a slew of big names that have done the country proud winning medals in major competitions only to be tested positive and subsequently stripped of their medals.
We all remember the duo of Satheesha Rai and Krishnan Madaswamy, who had tested positive at the 2002 Manchester Games. At the 2004 Athens Olympics triple CWG gold medallist Sanamachu Chanu and Pratima Kumari were caught doping. The world body had slapped a ban on the IWF following this episode. But the worst was reserved for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, with as many as four Indian lifters flunking dope tests. Men weightlifters Tejinder Singh and Edwin Raju were caught for doping during the Games, while Shailaja Pujari and Prameelavalli Bodari flunked WADA tests just before the Melbourne Games.
Ban on Indian weightlifting federation
The dubious act of the Indian weightlifters saw the world body serve a 12-month ban in 2006 with India forced to give the 2006 Doha Asiad a miss. The sequence of failed dope tests continued for Indian weightlifters – six lifters were caught doping in 2009, which had put India’s participation in the 2010 CWG under a doubt. India secured its participation by paying a fine of $500,000.
Big names have taken the ‘doping’ route
Of course, if we look at big names taking the ‘doping’ route on the global stage, the names of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, American woman sprinter Marion Jones and Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson readily come to mind.
Focusing on Indian weightlifters, the big question one needs to ask is why do our lifters fall prey to doping? A close analysis will reveal that at most times, our weightlifters do not get the required guidance from coaches and support staff on what supplements to take and which ones to avoid. Our weightlifters take supplements thinking to be a desired requirement for their training needs and this is where one feels that the Indian Weightlifting Federation must come up with a proper programme to educate lifters at all levels so that there is a broad-based awareness about the negative effects of using such performance enhancing drugs. Basically, our weightlifters must know what to take and what not to.
Hazards of using performance enhancing drugs (PED)
PEDs is a shortcut used by athletes to chart out the success path, but there are also many, who end up being caught doping for lack of awareness about the drugs they use as part of their training needs. Mistaking a PED to be a supplement can be fatal for athletes. That bring us to another crucial question: what are the hazards of using such PEDs?
Well, the damage for an athlete using PED can be huge. Such PEDs in general, enhances the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and liver disease, as well as high blood pressure. Such drugs can also trigger behavioral changes like mood swings, aggression, mania, depression, and dependence. It is believed that such drugs can result in acne, breast tissue development, permanent baldness, and shrinking of testicles for men athletes. Such PEDs can trigger growth of facial hair, and deepening of voice for female athletes. Using performance enhancing drugs proved fatal for two cyclists who died at the 1960 Rome Olympics and the 1967 Tour de France due to heat-stroke and cardiac arrest.
Coming back to Indian weightlifting, it’s fair to assume that a proper awareness programme at the grassroot level is a crying need and one hopes the IWF will do whatever is possible to ensure our lifters are known for their performances in major events and not for their doping deeds!