Athletes at the school level weightlifters and boxers are consuming marijuana before entering competition to achieve an increased sense of well-being,reduce fear and kill anxiety. The positive tests for marijuana from samples collected at the National School Games held in New Delhi between December 28 and January 3 are of a high percentage when compared to the senior level.
When results of the dope tests came to light last month,officials of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) were surprised to find the presence of marijuana,along with banned anabolic steroids and stimulants.
Eight of the 11 positive tests obtained from the 81 samples collected have shown presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabinoids. Cannabinoids is prohibited in competition according to WADA rules but there has been a debate on whether or not it should continue to be banned as it is a recreational drug and not a performance-enhancing drug.
Among the weightlifters,three samples have been positive for Stanozolol,an anabolic steroid and THC. Five boxers have also returned positive tests for Stanozolol,Nandrolone (anabolic steroid),Methylhexaneamine (stimulant) and THC.
Of the 11 athletes who have returned positive tests,eight have tested for marijuana also. This is a very high percentage of positive marijuana tests. At the senior level,athletes returning positive tests for marijuana is minimal, NADA director-general Rahul Bhatnagar told The Indian Express.
We had suspected that doping has percolated to the school level and hence we started testing athletes at school games for the first time in December. We were expecting to find anabolic steroid use but it has been found that marijuana abuse is also on the rise among school-level athletes, Bhatnagar added.
In weightlifting the positive results are from schools of Punjab and Delhi,while in boxing the positive results are from schools in Punjab,Maharashtra and Manipur.
According to DR PSM Chandran,former director of sports medicine at the Sports Authority of India,marijuana is a minor stimulant. Marijuana is known to delay fatigue,reduce anxiety and also produce a heightened sense of well-being. It can also help calm the nerves. That is why perhaps athletes participating in contact sports,like boxers,have returned positive tests at the school games, Dr Chandran said.
Moirangthem Singh,Manipurs boxing coach,blames lack of awareness. When it comes to marijuana I think most of these athletes are not aware that it is banned according to WADA rules. Since it is a recreational drug many youngsters consume it as it helps them relax and enter a zone. I have told my boxers that they should not be addicted to marijuana. However,I am really disappointed that some of the boxers have tested positive for steroids and stimulants, Singh said.
NADA has written to the school games federation,the respective boards of education and also the national-level federations about the alarming concern following the positive dope tests for anabolic steroids,stimulants at the school-level games.