Are Tendulkar-Dhoni above Phelps & Bolt?

Are Tendulkar-Dhoni above Phelps & Bolt?Himanshu Shekhar

While the cricket world awaited with bated breath to know what position Indian cricket’s governing body - the BCCI would take in order to push forward the uncomfortable ‘whereabouts’ clause of World Anti Doping Agency, the Indian board made it clear that it would not succumb to anything and sided with their players.
Prima-facie, what the BCCI has done seems to be right, if one looks at the players’ point of view, but what it has done is something which will only be detrimental for the reputation and transparency of players like Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

By refusing to toe the WADA line, BCCI has created a problem for International Cricket Council, as it would become toothless if a few more boards follow the Indian board’s footsteps.

So, let us take a look at the contentious clause which has Team India worried , and because which it is refusing to sign on the dotted line.

In what is possibly, till date, one of the most effective ways to free the sport from cheats and create a fair-play environment, WADA brought its anti-doping code in effect from January 1, 2004. According to its draft, the WADA code is the core document that provides the framework for harmonized anti-doping policies, rules, and regulations within sporting organizations and among public authorities.

And to guarantee a dope free sport, it has ensured that players are tested randomly and made to undertake routine sample tests, even if they are not playing.

The contentious guideline

WADA’s guidelines for ‘Implementing an Effective Whereabouts Program’ prepared on December 02, states: “The signatories to the World Anti Doping Code recognize that effective Out of Competition Testing programmes are essential to the fight against doping in sport. They also recognize that effective Out –of- Competition Testing depends upon accurate and complete Athlete whereabouts information.”

“What it means is that players registered with Wada(use as Wada or WADA) by the national association (in the case of cricket, the Integrated Registered Testing Pool comprising 11 players) will inform Wada of where they will be for 365 days so that they can be randomly tested any time. This is draconian in a sense because it puts a sportsperson under constant surveillance, like a criminal,” says senior sports journalist Ayaz Memon.

Concerns which the likes of Dhoni, Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh have raised might have their own merits, but the big question one needs to ask is; can Indian stars and BCCI be reluctant to do something which moves a step closer to a dope free sport.

Is that a price too big for an athlete? Indian cricketers might have got some support from outside the cricketing world, as similar concerns were expressed by tennis stars like Rafael Nadal and football’s blue eyed boy- Cristiano Ronaldo, but WADA has a strong point when it asserts that over 191 countries and 571 sporting bodies have already signed on the dotted line.

Opinions seem to be split in India too, as Sports Minister MS Gill and Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra have already come out in open favour of the code, to an extent that Bindra went on to remind cricketers of their ‘duty as an athlete’.

The ICC, which has vowed to make cricket free of doping, has become a WADA signatory, and has pledged to adhere to the guidelines set by them. But a public spat between ICC-BCCI on one side, and WADA on the other, has sent a wrong signal to the sporting world about cricketers’ commitment to a dope-free sport.

By openly rejecting the anti doping code, players like Tendulkar and Dhoni have only harmed their reputation. If Federer, Phelps, Bolt and Lewis Hamilton have no qualms in following the rules, then should there be an exception for the Indian stars?

Instead, we can think of a situation where Tendulkar is seen encouraging the younger lot to understand the importance of random testing, even if it amounts to some intrusion in their privacy, and then ask ICC & BCCI to engage in talks with WADA to make amendments in some rules for the benefit of players, who have signed it.

Secondly, refusing WADA’s guidelines will only delay cricket’s entry into the biggest sporting extravaganza, the Olympics, and hinder its expansion process.

Thirdly, the most amazing is the way things have been allowed to blow out of proportion by all the three concerned parties.

A closer look on WADA’s guidelines clearly mentions, and I quote, “The Athletes Whereabouts Guidelines in Article 2.4, 5.1.1, 10.3.3 are not mandatory in themselves and hence their always is an alternative way of discharging whereabouts responsibility and being available for the mandatory International Standard of Testing.”

Now, even if any player has any issue, he/she can approach the WADA authorities, or their respective boards can come with alternative plans.

The crisis has thrown an opportunity to living legends like Tendulkar, and even BCCI to an extent, to portray a higher stature, and move a step closer to dope-free cricket.

It would be refreshing to see the apex body of Indian cricket, BCCI, rising above petty confrontational politics and be a guiding light, rather than a bullish and pig-headed organisation.

A decade down the line, when history will judge cricketing icons like Sachin Tendulkar, we would like to see him as the man who bore the brunt and guided cricket into an era where suspicion and doubts were things of past, rather than someone who fell on the other side.