Submitted by alvin on Wed, 2016-07-06 21:34 As the world gears up for the greatest sporting event in a month’s time in August — the 2016 Rio Olympics — the mood in South America and Brazil in particular is one of great celebration and excitement. The whole world awaits the grandeur and record breaking performances of athletes from nearly 200 member nations of the International Olympic Committee. While sport brings the best out of us, there exists an equally dark side that is plaguing the world of sports - doping and the scandals therein. The last few months brought out news of cheating in sports on a grand scale. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced the less-than-shocking news that Russian track and field athletes have been using steroids and hormones for decades, and that the Russian KGB was involved in intimidating staffers at an anti-doping lab in Moscow. The most amazing aspect of the story was that Russian sports officials admitted the doping and pledged to clean up their act. Russia is now facing international sporting isolation as it might be banned from participation in any international sports events, including the Olympics. It seems to be a collective punishment for individual transgressions by few sportspersons. “It’s worse than we thought. This is an old attitude from the Cold War days,” said Dick Pound, founding president of WADA. Doping basically refers to the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in sports, particularly by the organisations that regulate sporting competitions. The reasons for the ban are mainly the health risks of performance-enhancing drugs, equality of opportunity for athletes, and the exemplary effect of drug-free sport for the public. As regarding our nation, all Indian sportspersons, athletes, their federations, team managers and government agencies involved in sports regulation should study the recent report published by the WADA, which has proposed sanctions against Russia and some of its athletes linked to doping. It has been observed in the past that some of our national athletes have been under investigation after they were adversely mentioned in connection with performance-enhancing drugs. The truth is that Indian athletes do not need these substances. Many of them have the discipline they need to become world champions. A nation’s athletes are also their brand ambassadors, a unifying factor and occupy a privileged position in society, which means that they are always in the limelight. They and their coaches, consultants, federations and managers have a responsibility to protect the integrity of their performance and how the country is perceived. Therefore, the Govt.of India is justified in declaring that dope offenders won’t be considered for Arjuna Award or Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honours in India. Sport should reflect what it was designed to be: recreation and fun. Most aspire to achieve the highest laurels but very few do so. The rewards are so great that many will be tempted to break the rules, which today are aimed at drug use. Let us therefore pray that the focus now would be on pure competition and fair play between fellow humans based on talents, hard work, expertise and abilities rather than on the pressurising measures used for comparing performances. Author: Dr Pradeep Goura is an Expert on Anti Doping in Sports and a former Empanelled Doping Control Officer with the National Anti Doping Agency, India.