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Indian cricket is once again in the eye of a storm, but not necessarily of its own making.

Often perceived, mostly wrongly, as grossly overpaid and arrogant, India’s cricketers in the International Registered Testing Pool (IRTP) have rejected the ‘whereabouts’ clause in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) doping code, a decision that has the backing of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The top Indian players, among them Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni, are reportedly neither averse to being tested for drugs, nor are they opposed to the concept of out-of-competition testing. Their reluctance to join a vast majority of the rest of the sporting fraternity worldwide in toeing the WADA line stems from the fear of invasion of their privacy, a topic raised by some other sporting icons across the world as well.

The contentious ‘whereabouts’ clause requires athletes embraced by the IRTP to provide information regarding where they can be found for one specified hour between 6 am and 11 pm every day for a three-month period, with updates every quarter for one year. The idea behind what might appear to be a draconian demand is to test athletes for drugs out of competition while maintaining the element of surprise. India’s cricketers, who have legitimate business and social commitments to meet during off season, insist it is humanly impossible for them to predict just where they might be at a particular time two or three months down the road. They have also cited security concerns associated with revealing details of their plans, concerns that are genuine considering the well documented threats to the lives of  Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly.

WADA’s claims of maintaining confidentiality has failed to impress the cricketers. Just as WADA believes in the efficacy of its system to weed out doping in sport, India’s cricketers are convinced they can’t live with ‘whereabouts’ clause. With the BCCI throwing its weight behind the players, a stand-off appears inevitable — between the Indian Board and the ICC, or between cricket’s world body and WADA. This confrontation won’t do cricket’s chances of becoming an Olympic sport any good, but then again, does cricket need the Olympics? Or, indeed, vice-versa? In any case, BCCI and WADA need to work out a compromise because doping is something which has absolutely no place in international sport.

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