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RTP gets bigger with inclusion of top athletes

Express News Service

The New Year seems to have ushered in a new chapter in India’s fight against doping. In one of the most significant moves, top athletes have been included in the Registered Testing Pool that was published by National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) on Monday.

A bigger and more comprehensive list, it has 149 athletes, 89 male and 60 female, on it. Earlier it had 131. It is an indication that the NADA is serious about anti-doping and is determined to send across a strong message to athletes about its intention. Unlike previous years, this time there are hardly any obscure names with Olympic, Asiad, Commonwealth Games to Worlds, Asian medallists, figuring on the list.

The RTP athletes have to provide their whereabouts on a quarterly basis. According to World Anti-Doping Agency, RTP athletes have to provide an address for overnight accommodations, regular activities, such as training, work, and school, the locations and the times of these activities, competition schedules and locations; a 60-minute time slot for each day where they’ll be available and accessible for testing and liable for a potential ‘missed test’.

Missing three tests in a year may constitute an Anti-Doping Rule Violation and incur a two-year suspension. However, it needs to be seen how many times NADA conducts tests on these athletes. According to WADA, the whereabouts of an athlete can be updated through their app or even SMS. RTP athletes will be aware that they will be watched closely and this can act as a deterrent.

The NADA had been quite active last year and instead of testing random athletes, it has targetted top ones. Going by last year’s doping violations, athletics seem to have some big names testing positive. Ostensibly so, the sport has the highest number of athletes 75.

To put in context the number, the next sport has 13 players on the list. This time all big names like sprinters Dutee Chand, Hima Das, Archana Sussendran, quarter-milers Noah Nirmal Tom, Vismaya VK, Jisna Mathew, Amoj Jacob, Priya H Mohan, and throwers Tejinderpal Singh Toor, Seema Punia, Rohit Yadav, DP Manu feature on the list.

It had been quite a torrid year for athletics. From javelin thrower, Shivpal Singh, and long jumper Aishwarya B to Jilna MV failed a dope test and were either provisionally suspended or banned. Quarter-miler and Asian Games gold medallist MR Poovamma too was banned last year but she tested positive in 2021.

Then there was Donald Makhimairaj (finished fourth at the junior worlds 2021), and Adesh Yadav, U23 5000m champion in 2021 to name a few. There is another indicator that Indian athletics is under the scanner. The Athletics Integrity Unit, the World Athletics’ anti-doping arm, included four more names this quarter.

Apart from Neeraj Chopra who was there on the list, Annu Rani (javelin), Avinash Sable (3000m), Abdulla Aboobacker (triple jump) and Murali Sreeshankar (long jump) have been added. The AIU caught a few offenders including Kamalpreet Kaur, who finished sixth at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and sprinter S Dhanalakshmi last year. With 13 players, weightlifting and para-athletics are next. Even in weightlifting, national and international medallists figure except Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Mirabai Chanu and Jeremy Lalrinnunga, who are on the International Weightlifting Federation list.

There are nine boxers. In wrestling, there are nine big names like Bajrang Punia, Deepak Punia, and Vinesh Phogat. There are five cricketers Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana. There are three badminton players Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Renkireddy and Gayathri Gopichand.

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