22 Indian national rowers fail drug test – all for the same substance!

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Image Courtesy: Pond5/Getty
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Year by year, India has been gaining pace in the battle against the usage of performance-enhancing substances, and over the years, the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) has discovered some of the most prominent names from the country’s sporting fraternity. However, NADA’s latest unearthing is probably its biggest catch ever. An astounding twenty two Indian rowers were recently put to a drug test, and every single of them ended up having positive results, and surprisingly, all of them tested positive for the same substance!

Image Courtesy: Pond5/Getty

The 22 male and female rowers, all aged between 16 to 18 years and members of the national under 18 squad, were tested back in July last year, during the preparation camp for the 2019 Asian Junior Rowing Championships.

While the names of the teenagers haven’t been disclosed, their urine test samples, which just returned from the Doha Labratory, reveal the presence of probenecid. A drug used to treat gouty arthritis and hyperuricemia, probenecid is listed under ‘Diuretics and Masking Agents’ in World Anti Doping Agency (WADA)’s 2020 list of prohibited substances.

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Following their test back in 2019 July, the U18 rowing team of 24 members had taken part at the Asian Junior Rowing Championships in Pattaya, Thailand. The minor rowers of the country had also clinched two silver medals at the event that was hosted from 16th to 22nd December.

However, following the positive results, the Indian team have been served an ‘Adverse Analytical Finding’ (AAF) notice by NADA. It was also reported that the minor rowers waived off their rights for B sample testing, and haven’t opted for optional provisional suspension. As a result, they will lose the two silvers the had secured in the championships last year.

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Such a huge doping scandal is an embarrassment of the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) and is sure to put a stain on their reputation, and raises several questions. However, the federation secretary general M.V. Sriram has been vocal about lending support to the young rowers, as he believes the drug test has some ‘error’ is in place.

“We are very sure that it (probenecid) is from a supplement which is approved by the Sports Authority of India,” Sriram said in an interview with AFP.

“Though maybe in that particular batch there may have been some spiking which we were not aware of,” he added.

Speaking to Times of India, NADA’s director general, Navin Agarwal raised question on the RFI’s irresponsibility on letting such a large scale consumption of a banned substance happen.

“The RFI needs to examine why such a large number of junior athletes were allowed to consume this substance in the camp. Coaches and organisers must tell the reason,” Agarwal said.

“There are NSFs which seek our support for anti-doping awareness programmes. Sadly, the RFI never asked or approached us for informative sessions for their athletes,” The director general also lamanted on RFI’s disinterest.

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