Even in this era of big endorsements, competitive sports remain the last bastion of the romantic. So, each time there is an occasion to doubt the ‘purity’ of a contest, cynicism enters this green field. We have seen it happen in cricket where charges of ‘match-fixing’ have surfaced.
The latest blow is Russian sports being caught by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for doping across the wide track and long field. WADA has announced a four-year ban on Russia from all ‘major’ sporting events. This means it will be unable to participate in the 2020 Olympics and 2022 Winter Olympics, both where Russia is a powerhouse. There is, however, still handwringing from some quarters over such a ‘blanket ban’.
The Russian Football Union, for example, is yet to hear the final word from Fifa, the world’s football governing body. That good Russian oil’n’gas money goes into world football may explain some of the left footright foot-dragging. But without a seriously imposed ban, the biggest loser will be international sports, where a let-off will be an invitation to turn sporting competitions to scripted shows. This should also serve as fair warning to India, where the ‘patli gali’ option is used to measure up to the country’s sporting potential.
WADA had suspended India’s National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) in August. So, every Indian sample to be tested now goes to other WADA-accredited labs. Ten Indian weightlifters were banned for dope violation earlier this year, while wrestling and athletics have had their unholy share of violations, including wrestler Narsingh Yadav and shot-putter Inderjit Singh before the 2016 Olympic Games. Being lax on performance-enhancement substances is not an option for India. If there is one thing worse than an also-ran, it is a cheat.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.