Signs point to BCCI being brought to heel on anti doping pact

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MUMBAI: After an Indian cricketer figured among the list of players who tested positive for banned substances in the report for 2016 released by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), it emerges that that the world body has asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) to direct the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to allow drug-testing of Indian cricketers by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA). 

WADA, according to a Times of India report, has warned that NADA could lose its accreditation if it does not comply. This would threaten all Indian sports, if the warning is indeed carried out. In a letter addressed to Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, WADA said that if NADA loses its compliance with the WADA Code, it could affect Indian sport's fight against doping and also negatively impact its participation in global sports, as India would then be left with no WADA-accredited agency to test its athletes.

The WADA Code is the core document that harmonises anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organisations and among public authorities around the world. The Code was first adopted in 2003, took effect in 2004, and was then amended on January 1, 2009.

The WADA letter came on the heels of an audit of NADA's anti-doping programme in April this year which found that BCCI neither recognises NADA's authority nor does it permit the WADA-affiliated body to implement any anti-doping regime in cricket. The TOI report says the minister acted swiftly on the letter, and directed then Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas to write to the Committee of Administrators (CoA) and BCCI officials apprising them of the issue.

"NADA's anti-doping rules, which were approved by the Cabinet, give it full jurisdiction and authority to implement the anti-doping measures with respect to all sports in India, including cricket," Srinivas wrote to CoA chairman Vinod Rai and BCCI CEO Rahul Johri earlier this month. "Therefore, kindly intervene and facilitate NADA to implement the anti-doping programme with respect to cricket in India with full cooperation of the BCCI. In the absence of this, NADA may run the risk of becoming non-compliant with the WADA Code. With your (Rai's) support, we can rectify the present situation arising out of BCCI's non-cooperation and help NADA become fully compliant of the WADA Code," the daily quotes Srinivas as having written.

WADA has sought the Sports Ministry's "urgent assistance" in "addressing the anti-doping issue with BCCI and ensuring NADA can implement the anti-doping programme in cricket with full cooperation of BCCI", the report says. Without this cooperation, India's NADA may risk its compliance with the WADA Code as its testing programme will not be fully effective," the letter written by WADA's director general Olivier Niggli warned. "We are following up with the ICC for assistance in addressing this issue. It's our understanding that NADA's anti-doping rules give it full jurisdiction and authority over all sports in India," Niggli added.

TOI quotes NADA DG Navin Agarwal as saying, "WADA is very serious about dope testing in Indian cricket this time around. That's why they have taken up the matter with the ministry, which, in turn, has written to Mr Rai."

The BCCI has long opposed WADA drug-testing of Indian cricketers due to the “whereabouts clause”. The clause states players have to inform the ICC at the beginning of every quarter of the year, a location and time that they will be available for an hour each day for testing.

If a player changes his/her schedule in between, then he/she needs to update the whereabouts information to the nodal officer either online or even through SMS. However, if the player is not in the location at the time specified, he/she will have a strike recorded against his name. Three such strikes and the player will have breached the code and can face up to a two-year suspension from the game.

Recently, West Indies cricketer Andre Russell was banned for one year for a whereabouts clause violation as he was negligent in filing his whereabouts on three separate occasions within a 12-month period in 2015.

It bears noting that Team India cricketers have thus far not had to face such "invasions of their privacy" only because the financial power BCCI wields in world cricket offers them the luxury of such special privileges. 

In the past, WADA had sent a code compliance questionnaire to the BCCI but the Indian Board did not submit it because it refused to recognise the code.

It is a scenario unique to cricket that though the game's world governing body ICC has been a WADA signatory since 2006, and the BCCI also comes under the Anti-Doping Agency code as it is an ICC member, it has thus far been able to get away with giving the code the royal ignore.

It is to be hoped that the Supeme Court administered winds of reform that are blowing through the portals of the BCCI will force the Indian cricket board to finally come to heel on the critically important matter of ant-doping compliance as well.

Also read:

Cricketer among Indians in 2016 WADA doping net