A dozen athletes, almost half of them gold medalists, have tested positive for using banned drugs at the Khelo India School Games, an under-17 event aimed at strengthening the grassroots.
The National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) has notified 12 athletes, including a girl, who failed dope tests during the inaugural edition which was held in New Delhi from January 31 to February 8. Among those who have tested positive are four wrestlers, three boxers, two gymnasts and one athlete each from judo, volleyball and athletics.
Five of them won gold medals — three in wrestling and one each in gymnastics and volleyball. While the sports ministry has remained quiet on the failed tests so far, a source said notices were sent to the athletes via their respective federations in two batches, on March 7 and 14.
“Most of the athletes have tested positive for furosemide and terbutaline. Since these fall under the specified substances category of the World Anti Doping Agency code, they have not been suspended yet,” said the source.
Terbutaline is a prohibited drug used in treatment of asthma. It is reported to enhance an athlete’s performance via oral dosage and inhalation. Furosemide is a masking agent and diuretic which helps in short-term weight loss. These are substances which have a greater possibility of entering an athlete’s body inadvertently, and do not warrant an immediate provisional suspension.
However, a boxer has been handed provisional suspension after he tested positive for stanozolol, a performance-enhancing drug. All these athletes face a suspension of two-four years. The positive tests highlight the rampant doping at the junior level. According to WADA, India has the third highest doping cases in the world, with junior-level meets contributing substantially to the increasing numbers.
The Khelo India Games, a rebranded version of the National School Games, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is aimed at strengthening the grassroots. Under the programme, the government plans to identify 1,000 athletes and provide them an annual funding of Rs 5 lakh each for eight years.
It is the government’s flagship event and its importance can be gauged from the fact that nearly one-fourth of the Rs 2,196.36 crore allocated to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in the Union Budget will go towards the Khelo India Project.