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In official code of conduct for para athletes: let us search your belongings

However, an IPC official denied that the world body had ever backed any such agreement.

Written by Vinayak Bhushan Padmadeo | New Delhi |
October 17, 2014 12:41:08 am

Indian athletes participating in the Asian Para Games starting this weekend in South Korea have said that they were made to sign a code of conduct agreement by their national association that includes several “unethical” clauses, one of which even allows officials to search their belongings at will.

All the 87 special athletes in the contingent have signed the document but not before many of them raised objections to these clauses, specifically those that obligates them to give blood samples for HIV testing; provide their complete immunisation history; and let officials search their possessions at the accommodation provided for the Games.

The document states that a “breach in any term of this agreement” will mean losing accreditation for the Games, exclusion from competition and even financial penalties. The Para Games, for special athletes, are being held in Incheon from October 18-24, and follows the Asian Games that were held last month at the same venue. When contacted by The Indian Express, Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) President Rajesh Tomar confirmed that the athletes were asked to sign the agreement before they started leaving for Incheon in batches from Tuesday.

Tomar said that it was done to ensure discipline and enforce anti-doping measures, and claimed that the agreement was endorsed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

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However, an IPC official denied that the world body had ever backed any such agreement. Para athletes from the past and even present able-bodied Olympians have also pointed out that they had never been asked by any association to sign any such undertaking before.

Defending the PCI’s decision, Tomar said, “We had to recall an athlete from the Commonwealth Games after he tested positive; we were told that the syringes were found from the rooms of our athletes there.” He added, “IPC wants us to do this. We have inserted a few clauses of our own to ensure that these athletes stay disciplined but I am only following orders from the IPC.”

But IPC’s director of media and communications Craig Spence denied that the committee had issed any such “orders”. “Having spoken to my relevant colleagues in anti-doping and medical, I can assure you that none of these guidelines have come from the IPC,” Spence clarified through email.

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A National Anti-Doping Agency official, meanwhile, termed the PCI’s anti-doping clause as a “crude way” of dealing with dope cheats and clarified that at least one of the clauses in the agreement — letting officials search the athletes’ personal possessions — was outside the guidelines of even the WADA.

According to a leading para athlete, who wished to remain anonymous because of a media gag that is part of the agreement, the PCI came up with this document to curb criticism. “We were given this document at the last moment and told specifically that only those who sign would go to Incheon. Everyone has signed. They (the officials) had been publicly criticised earlier for the selection and handling of athletes before the Games so this code of conduct ensures that we will stay silent. It’s such a complex document that there can always be a case of someone breaking some rule,” he said.

The clauses in the agreement, not surprisingly, have irked even former Olympians such as ace shooter and London Games bronze medallist Gagan Narang. “I have never seen or heard of such a document. We were never made to sign any such document by either the National Rifle Association of India or the Indian Olympic Association,” Narang told The Indian Express.

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Another Olympian shooter Ronjan Sodhi questioned the clause that asked the athletes to provide blood samples. “Where is the need for HIV testing? I have never been asked to do any such test,” Sodhi said.

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First published on: 17-10-2014 at 12:41:08 am

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