Indian athletes who fail dope tests will have to disclose their phone and laptop records if a legislation to make doping a criminal offence is passed. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) is mulling a clause in the proposed legislation, which will give dope control officers power to access an athlete’s mobile phone records and other devices.
NADA is drafting a law to criminalise doping after it received approval from the World Anti- Doping Agency and the sports ministry in March. Subsequently, it was decided to take assistance from their counterparts in Australia, which is one of the few countries to have an anti-doping act.
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s (ASADA) director, legal services, Darren Mullaly informed NADA last month about the provision in their anti-doping law, which allows them access to an athlete’s phone to gather evidence. NADA director general Naveen Agarwal said they are keen to borrow the idea.
“There is a provision there which allows the dope control officer, who goes to serve the notice of charge, the authority to seize the athlete’s mobile, laptop and other devices. It helps in gathering evidence and the chances of athletes coming up with an alibi is reduced. We will try to incorporate this clause in our legislation,” Agarwal told The Indian Express.
Agarwal, a 1986 batch IPS officer of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre, said the step would be useful in detecting potential violations and also help in identifying the source of the drug. The process to prepare the legislation is still at a nascent stage and consultations are ongoing with several agencies. This is the latest in a series of steps NADA has taken to nab dope cheats.
The agency has also decided to test athletes immediately after they return from tournaments or training camps held outside India. The step was taken after hurdler Jithin Paul was provisionally suspended for being in possession of meldonium, a banned drug.
NADA believes the drug was smuggled into the country since it is not available in the Indian market. A senior anti-doping official said the drug is available primarily in Central Asia along with Russia and a few Baltic countries. “We will test them at the airport itself or soon after they return from abroad. We will coordinate with the federations to keep track,” Agarwal said.
India has the third-highest dope offenders in the world, behind Russia and Italy. At the same time, NADA has been guilty of delays in reporting dope test results and the subsequent hearings, for which they were pulled up by the world body a couple of years ago.
To fasten the process, NADA has decided that the cost of demanding a second hearing will be borne by the athlete henceforth to reduce unnecessary delays. “One reason why our result management system gets late is unnecessary extensions demanded by lawyers on behalf of athletes,” Agarwal said. “Normally, the case should be disposed of in one hearing. In case the athlete demands more time, the cost of hearing will have to be borne by the athlete.”
Cost of one anti-doping hearing is approximately Rs 20,000, most of which is for the judge and panel members. Recently, track-and-field athlete Yugant Shekhar Singh was made to pay for a second hearing, when he sought to fight his case. Singh tested positive for anabolic steroids last year. “This step will ensure there are no delays and deter athletes from asking for more extensions,” Agarwal said.