Doping and sports

We get celebrities to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova has become the latest top-billed athelete to be caught in a doping scandal. Following her positive test results for banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open in January, Sharapova has been handed a two-year suspension by the International Tennis Federation. With sports stars increasingly being tainted in dope tests, is it time to have an iron hand over such scandals?

Ankita Bhambri, tennis player: ‘Anti-doping measures must start at junior level’

I have zero tolerance for doping and consumption of any such drugs. The awareness on anti-doping measures should begin right from junior level championships. There should be more seminars and awareness campaigns to curb the doping menace, as there is a serious lack of awareness among players. In Sharapova’s case, she is an idol for millions of young players and although one looks up to their idol, one can’t bend the rules for them. A long ban like this at the peak of her career is unfortunate and is surely going to affect her.

Vijay Amritraj, former president of ATP Players’ Council, and India’s Davis Cup star: ‘Authorities responsible for outlining banned substances’

Sports should be free from drugs and this message will be sent out loud and clear when the tainted person is dealt with an iron fist. The question, however, is whether all procedures are followed to be able to come up with this verdict (on Sharapova). I don’t exactly know what the procedures are, but when you convict a person you should be 100 per cent sure about the rules. Obviously, Sharapova is entitled to appeal against the ban. It’s the responsibility of the authorities to outline the list of banned substances and similarly athletes can’t plead ignorance when they are caught.

Pullela Gopichand, chief national badminton coach: I think doping should be dealt with strongly. I endorse Roger Federer’s opinion that there should be zero tolerance for those who dope; there isn’t much difference if someone consumes a banned substance on purpose or otherwise.

Anju Bobby George, long jump and triple jump athlete: ‘Cheaters are everywhere’

The doping issue is not a new one. Over the years, the authorities have made the tests stricter and increased their frequency. But, the issue still remains. We all know last year’s incident when Russia purposefully did this. It was a government-sponsored programme. That’s when we came to know that almost all medallists from Russia were taking banned substances. So the Shara-pova episode has not surprised me. If she needed an exemption, she could have shown the medical reports. Despite strict regulations, Russia has been doing this. I still believe I missed the Athens Olympics medal due to doping.

Three Russians won medals in Athens. And, two of them were caught later. The investigation is still on. And the government supported their athletes.Cheaters can be found everywhere. And they know how to do it. No matter how strict the rules are, they will find a way. They may get caught after a few years, but they will definitely do it. They have mastered the art.

Dr Bakhtiar Choudhary, senior sports medicine consultant: ‘She should’ve declared exemption’

Maria Sharapova should definitely be punished because rules are very clear against the use of meldonium. If she had reason for taking it, she should have declared Therapeutic Use exemption (TUE) and there wouldn’t have been a problem. For example, many asthma drugs are banned too and players who suffer from asthma declare TUE and use the drugs. As a role model to many, she should have followed the system and set a proper example.

Jwala Gutta, badminton player: ‘For such players, punishment should be stricter’

Maria Sharapova travels around the world with her own team, which is one of the best around. She is a world class player, so it’s a little hard for me to digest the fact that she didn’t know she took a banned substance. For such players, I feel the punishment should be stricter. Coming to Indian athletes, most of them are not educated and they wouldn’t even know what they have been prescribed. So it would be unfair to blame them if they use any banned substances as in such cases, it’s usually the authorities or coaches prescribing the drugs to get instant results. I would take a closer look at those responsible for Indian athletes (from the less popular disciplines) and give the benefit of doubt to the athletes.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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