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The Sports Ministry has cleared a proposal to make doping by athletes a criminal offence, in sync with laws that govern the usage of narcotics, senior officials of the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) and the ministry told The Indian Express. The proposed legislation is aimed at punishing coaches and manufacturers, too, who in many cases have been known to supply athletes with performance-enhancing substances.
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, athletes caught doping face a four-year ban for the first offence and eight-year sanction for the second.
Officials said that a draft legislation is being framed to criminalise the offence and will be forwarded to the sports ministry before being vetted by the law ministry. It will have to be passed in the Parliament for it to be an Act and the entire process could take at least six months, NADA director general Naveen Agarwal said.
“The use, storage and trade in narcotics is considered to be a criminal offence. We wanted doping to be put in the same category. The reason being if narcotics alters your mental condition, doping substances have an affect on your physical condition. Both are very harmful for the body,” said Agarwal, a 1986-batch J&K-cadre IPS officer.
India ranks third on the global list of dope-offenders compiled by WADA for the last three years. And, the sports ministry hopes that criminalising the offence would act as an effective deterrent.
“It will need the engagement of several agencies. Once doping is made a criminal offence, it will act as a deterrent. As much as complying with the idea of clean sports, this is also about realising that doping causes acute harm to the abuser. So, it’s important to prevent that,” said Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas.
Agarwal said he had met WADA director-general Olivier Niggli in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week and that it’s on the world body’s insistence that a legislation is being prepared.
NADA has also sought assistance from the Australian Anti Doping Agency in forming the legislation — Australia is among the handful countries which has an anti-doping Act.
“The rules are yet to be framed. We have to work out the modus operandi of the Act. There could be a prison term also,” Agarwal said.
Agarwal said there have been several cases where coaches have induced athletes to take the banned substance but have gone unpunished. “We cannot take any action against the coach because he hasn’t committed a criminal offence as per the law. This will change once this Act is passed,” he said.
“Similarly, many manufacturers and suppliers of nutritional supplements add artificial elements to their products but do not display them on the labels. Not just athletes, many people who go to gyms to get well-toned bodies fall prey to this. There are temporary short-term results at the cost of long-term health hazards. This is a public health issue, so a proper legislation and criminalisation is required,” said Agarwal.