The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has urged the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to ‘reconsider’ its move to criminalise the supply of prohibited drugs to athletes.
The proposed National Anti-Doping Bill 2018 – drafted by Justice (retired) Mukul Mudgal – recommends jail terms for those involved in supplying banned drugs to athletes. One of the reasons to punish the suppliers, according to NADA, was that often, those who induce the athletes into taking banned substances would go scot-free.
So, as per the draft bill, athletes, coaches or pharmacists, among others, found guilty of ‘trafficking drugs’ can be imprisoned for up to four years or be made to pay a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh. The IOA, however, has raised apprehensions over this clause.
IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta, in his feedback to NADA director general Naveen Agarwal, wrote: “Article 13(2) and (3) on criminalising supply of prohibited substances should be reconsidered. Few of the prohibited substances are legal under law to purchase and consume, the effect of which on performance enhancing is only illegal in sports but would not stand the general implications of a criminal act.”
The draft was formed after NADA and the sports ministry set the wheels in motion two years ago to make doping a criminal offence, in sync with laws that govern the usage of narcotics. Agarwal said they have invited feedback from various stakeholders and their responses will be put in front of the governing body.
‘Direct government authority’
However, the IOA has also objected to the composition of the governing body itself, saying it has an ‘overarching direct government authority’ and went against the world anti-doping body’s regulations.
As per the draft bill, NADA’s eight-member general body would comprise at least four government officials: the sports minister, sports secretary, joint secretary of the sports ministry, and director general of health services, ministry of health and family welfare. The Sports Authority of India has suggested that its director general should also be a part of the governing body.
Mehta, in his letter to Agarwal, has flagged this issue, citing Article 22.6 of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code. The rule states: “Each government will respect the autonomy of a National Anti-Doping Organisation in its country and not interfere in its operational decisions and activities.”
NADA, it must be noted, is funded by the government. The world anti-doping agency’s code allows government involvement only as far as putting in place the legislation and policies for the national agency’s functioning.
Agarwal said the suggestions are being examined by his agency. “That suggestion has been received from some others as well. All the suggestions are being examined. We will try to evolve a consensus on it during the next meeting of the governing body,” Agarwal said.