Vijender should be careful, boxing and drugs go back a long way…
Innocent until proven guilty. No one here is arguing otherwise. At this stage in the investigation, there has been nothing to link Vijender Singh to heroin beyond some vague allegations by a man alleged to be a drug dealer and Ram Singh, a fellow boxer and sparring partner. While Vijender has been questioned by the police, he has not been charged with anything, though he did refuse to give samples of his blood and hair during the process of questioning in Panchkula without giving reasons for doing so.
For all we know, Vijender’s name has simply been dragged into this mess by association. If that is the case, the police investigation will clear him in due time and we can all move on with clear consciences.
But there is reason to be cautious. Boxing, especially professional boxing, has a long history with drugs. And we are not talking about your run-of-the-mill journeymen pugilists here. We are talking a cavalcade of world champions who have admitted to abusing drugs and/or alcohol. Oscar De La Hoya was the “Golden Boy”, a multiple world champion who commanded some of the highest prize money in the game. Yet last year (he retired in 2009) he admitted to abusing alcohol before fights, saying he did it in a way it could not be detected. “We are very intelligent,” De La Hoya said. “We knew how to plan to work the system.” In the same interview on ESPN Deportes’ then new talk show “El Bar,” Julio Cesar Chavez, a fellow ex-world champion who retired in 2005, also admitted to using drugs and alcohol. “At times, I would leave spaces of a month and a half without using drugs or alcohol, but afterwards, I would shorten that time, he said. “Then later, it would be one month, 20 days, later 15 days. One week, four days, three days, so it would not show in the doping” tests.
Hector “Macho” Camacho, one of boxing’s most entertaining champions in the 1980s and 1990s, won six titles in five different weight classes but struggled with drugs throughout his career. Ricky Hatton, who was awarded an MBE by the Queen, was admitted to a rehabilitation facility in 2010 for substance abuse. And who can forget Mike Tyson? Once the baddest man on the planet, Tyson said he was completely doped up on cocaine during the shooting of the Hangover, a Hollywood hit film. The lag time between fights often many months gives fighters the opportunity to indulge themselves. And let’s be clear, we are strictly talking recreational drugs here. This is not about performance enhancers. In De La Hoya’s case, he drank because he thought he didn’t to train as hard to win his fight with Manny Pacquiao, something that proved to be a terrible miscalculation when Pacquiao stopped him in eight rounds.
In Vijender’s case, the suspension of the IABF left him training without a purpose. Suddenly, there was no reward for the punishing routine boxers put themselves through. There was no rationale for the suffering. Compounding the situation, heroin comes under in-competition testing under the WADA Code, so he cannot be tested to see if he has taken the drug. If he took drugs for adventure, as Ram Singh has alleged, he would certainly not be the first and he won’t be the last. None of which is to say he took heroin. Again, innocent until proven guilty.
However, if it turns out he did do drugs, we should not be particularly surprised there is institutional failure at work here, after all and we should be wary of over-reacting. Yes, the law must take its course but expelling him from the National Institute of Sports (as has been done with Ram Singh), or preventing him from boxing again, is not the answer.
More appropriate would be a suspension and rehabilitation. And possibly, though this is asking too much, a system that looks after our boxers rather than leaving them to their own devices.
Federations, Coaches Blamed For Doping Scandals
Many former athletes have for long blamed the national federation and the coaches for the doping scandals that have rocked India in recent years, saying that they were hand in glove with the athletes in bringing the country to shame. Former top sprinter Ashwini Nachappa said a couple of years ago that there is a ‘nexus’ among the athletes, Athletics Federation of India officials and former Soviet Block coaches. “Will the AFI officials care to explain as to why all these athletes have been travelling to Ukraine and Belarus for training. This is a big nexus between Soviet block coaches, athletes and federation officials. All of them are hand in glove,” she had said. Legendary quarter-miler Milkha Singh wondered how the athletes could have taken banned drugs without the knowledge of federation and coaches.
“It is impossible that the athletes took to banned substances without the knowledge of coaches and federation officials. The coaches are behind all these and the officials would also keep a blind eye pretending they don’t know,” Milkha Singh said. Nachappa expressed surprise at how Ashwini Akkunji, who along with another quartermiler Priyanka Panwar tested positive for anabolic steroids, managed to improve her timings spectacularly once she came back from Belarus.
“You can’t improve your timing this drastically after a short stint. Also they can’t feign ignorance about the food supplements that they are being given. Are they little kids who don’t understand the implications of using banned substances?” she questioned. “The hope in 2012 was the 4×400 relay team but now the impetus hould be on cleaning up the mess so that we do well in 2016.”
In addition to Ashwini Akkunji and another quartermiler Priyanka Panwar, Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose, Akkunji’s team-mates in the 4×400 relay quartet that won gold in the Commonwealth and Asian Games, had also tested positive for the same methandienone as well another qaurtermiler Jauna Murmu. Another qaurtermiler Tiana Mary Thomas had tested positive for anabolic steroid epimethandiol. Long Jumper Hari Krishnan Muralidharan and shot putter Sonia were the other athletes who tested positive.
Legendary Milkha Singh, gold medallist at the Asian and Commonwealth Games, said that the cash incentives and awards given to the dope cheats should be taken back to serve a deterrent to other athletes. “Take away the cash prizes given by the Central and State Governments and other awards. That will serve as deterrent to other future athletes,” he said.
– Inputs from ibnlive