Challenging time for NADA

Challenging time for NADA

Representative image. (PTI Photo)

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is causing a lot of hardship globally, disrupting sporting activities like any other sphere of life. While on-field sporting action has come to grinding hard, the off-field operations too have been hit hard.

The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), India's doping watchdog, is one such organisation to have been affected by the pandemic with sample collections dropping to 60 percent and its director general Navin Agarwal fearing the worst.

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According to Agarwal, NADA collects around 3000-4000 samples a year -- translating to an average of about 300 a month. However, following the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has brought travel to a near halt in the country over the last fortnight, they've been able to collect only 100 samples this month.

"It's an extremely challenging time for us," Agarwal told DH. "Testing has taken a back seat and there's very little we can do about it. Flights are cancelled, country has come to a standstill, competitions have been cancelled left, right and centre, it's perhaps the most difficult time.

Also Read: Coronavirus India update: State-wise total number of confirmed cases

"We were preparing to test athletes in the Indian Grand Prix this week and the Federation Cup Athletics next month but both have been cancelled. Next month is the crucial phase in the coronavirus trajectory and many fear the country could be in a lockdown to stop cases from multiplying exponentially. In such a scenario, there’s nothing we can do about. The only thing we can do is postpone sample collection which we are allowed to. Like athletes, we are also hoping for the best. It also must be noted that even athletes are forced to change their training programmes because of Covid-19.”

Reduced or no sample collection means an easy ride for those with evil intentions but Agarwal warned athletes thinking about going the wrong route.

“We have around 100 athletes in the whereabouts list and all of them are aware of the dos and dont's. I’m sure they won’t risk their career trying some dirty tricks. Assuming we can’t test in April, we will sure be able to test in May. So they’ll be caught if they consume something that's prohibited. They can’t just get away easily. Even the athletes not on the list, if they try doping, they will get caught in competition later. So I don’t see this as a chance for athletes to dope during this time.”

When asked about the safety protocols followed considering how easy coronavirus can be spread from person to person, Agarwal said his organisation is ensuring the safety of both the athlete and DCO (Doping Control Officer) is not compromised.

“We’ve asked the DCO to maintain a 2-metre distance between him/her and the athlete. We've sent out circulars to all DCOs on the safety precautions to be followed much in advance. We are vigilant.”

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