Rio—Are you ready? We are getting ready too. As the countdown for Rio Olympics 2016 has started—the entire sporting universe is almost asking this question in unison. But as the billions of people from all around the globe watch the best of the athletes from countries around the world compete—there are two demons which need to be fought with all the energy at disposal—one from outside and the other from within. Terrorism and its related violence pose the biggest threat to the civilised world today. Leaving nothing to chance, Rio de Janeiro- has laid out the best of the plans to fight this outside demon. Amongst the various steps taken in this direction— one futuristic, balloon-mounted surveillance camera system capable of monitoring a wide swath of the city in high resolution and in real-time will be cynosure of all the attention. And then there is doping— the demon from within threatening the very existence and credibility of sports and sporting competition.
Chronology of Narsingh Yadav Saga
The findings of the poll done by GlobeScan for the BBC World Service—just months before the Rio Olympics say that doping scandals have reduced public interest in Olympics. A majority of 57 per cent, from 19,000 people surveyed across 19 countries said, doping has a lot or some negative effect on the level of attention they will pay to the games. A majority of people in 13 of the 19 countries having polled said, “The use of doping would reduce their interest in Olympics”. As former National Physical Trainer and one who has done research on menace of doping in sports Dr Saranjit Singh says, “This poll findings are sort of last warnings. The menace has become so rampant and universal in the world of sports that entire belief process is getting shaken. I dread of the day, when Olympic competition will get reduced to stage managed WWF competition- where the best of the supplements and masking agents and not the ability on the field will be the sole
determining factor as far as the final outcome is concerned”. And there are strong basis to these concerns.
The countdown to Rio 2016 started amidst the call for blanket ban on Russia participating in the Olympics. The background to the entire Russian doping controversy lies in the allegations made by the former head of Russia’s national and ant-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov that he doped dozens of athletes before the 2014 Winter Olympics which were held in Sochi, Russia. Following this, the findings of the report filed by the commission led by Canadian law professor Richard Mc Laren underlined that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme for four years from 2011-15 across the vast majority of sports. The report said, “It was planned and operated from late 2011- including the build up to London 2012- and continued through the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics until August 2015. Russia’s Sports Ministry directed,
controlled and oversaw manipulation of urine samples provided by its athlete. Russian athletes benefitted from ‘Disappearing Positive Methodology’ whereby positive samples would go missing”. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach described the commission’s findings as a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games and pledged to enforce the toughest sanctions available against those implicated.” However, contrary to the signals given by the highest
official in International Olympic Committee (IOC) Russia did not receive a blanket ban from Rio 2016. Instead IOC left it up to individual sports governing bodies to decide if Russian competitors are clean and should be allowed to take part. Russia’s track and field athletes are already banned and competitors from other events were asked to meet strict criteria laid down by IOC.
Noted international journalist based in Bonn Ms P Esselborn rightly puts everything in perspective when she says, “The IOC has come through
testing times in the past—the Olympics boycotts of the cold war years, the Ben Johnson doping
scandal, the salt lake bidding
controversy—but there have never been a few days like this. Olympic family is a divided house today like never before.World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) wanted a total ban and athletes’ representatives are at logger heads with those who run their sports”.
The embers can glow very hot, sometimes as hot as fire which created them. When India is also striving to better 2012 performance and get ready for the Olympic bugle to blow—two of its Rio bound athletes—wrestler Narsingh Yadav and shot putter Inderjeet Singh failed the dope test. To make the matter worse—nation pride was hurt in the Narsingh Yadav’s case. The entire Narsingh Yadav episode—starting from bitter court battle to the controversies surrounding the dope scandal—has indeed hurt, if not punctured this pride. In our history and mythology—wrestling has been more than the sports. The ‘akharas’ symbolises our way of life—in the
context of ‘Guru-Shishya Parampara’, and disciplined life style which includes abstinence from alcohol and other intoxicants. As senior journalist and one who has followed wrestling for years Ravi Kant says, “In Narsingh episode, this entire essence of
historically great game in terms of our culture and tradition has been
crucified. Just when it appeared that after the bitter court struggle things were settling for Narsingh Yadav, this anti-climax bordering nightmare
It goes without doubt that in an Olympics where every medal counts— in the incidents leading up to the Rio Olympics—incalculable damage has been done to India’s chances in 74 kg weight category. With time, this will heal. But what will be eternally irreparable will be the incalculable damage Sushil Kumar has done to his reputation. He now will never be able to cross thin line from being an achiever to a sporting statesman. In this gloomy sky surrounding the Indian akharas—what gives us the heart is the transparency and maturity with which our National Doping agency has handled the entire matter.
(The writer is senior sports journalist)