Rahul Sharma may or may not be guilty of consuming drugs. But he was guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, is that a crime? As things stand, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) isn’t quite ready to execute the youngster, yet.
The Board has come out and said that they will study all the information before taking a decision.
“I don’t know why everyone is in a mood to execute Rahul Sharma without even going into the details,” BCCI president N Srinivasan told PTI on Friday night. “The BCCI will first procure each and every bit of relevant information and then study them before deciding on the course of action.”
But on a slightly different tangent, one can’t help but wonder if the Rahul Sharma case is particularly odd.
‘Rich, young cricketer’ is a phrase that isn’t as rare as it used to be. They earn millions in the IPL and, having broken into the Indian team, like to party and lead the good life. And sometimes under the influence of alcohol they do things that they ought not to. Now, that doesn’t mean that any cricketer dopes but it is a possibility – one that cannot be ignored.
And that is precisely why the ‘Whereabouts Clause’ of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) was needed. The gist of the clause was that players needed to inform the ICC at the beginning of every quarter (three-month period) of the year a location and time when they will be available for an hour each day in that quarter for testing. However, if the player is not in the location at the time specified, he/she will have a strike recorded against his name. Three such strikes and the player will have breached the code and can face up to a two-year suspension from the game.
“It’s not something that you like, but it’s also something that you got to do to protect cricket’s image. Assuming one percent of the cricketers are into drugs, the others, the majority of 99 percent, should not get tainted,” former New Zealand paceman Shane Bond had once said, and you can’t help but agree with him.
Guilty or not, Rahul Sharma was caught in a compromising position and that cannot help a sport that is already reeling under the cloud of ‘spot-fixing.’ Is doping also being swept under the carpet? Do any other cricketers also indulge in ‘recreational’ doping?
On 8 October 2009, the International Cricket Council had suspended the ‘Whereabouts Clause’ of the Wada until the concerns of the Indian players about it were resolved.
Many Indian players thought the code infringed on their privacy and personal space, especially during off-season, or when they are not playing cricket. They had raised concerns on a practical level and claimed the system had a high risk of catching athletes who are simply not administratively inclined.
But the Rahul Sharma incident shows just why these rules need to be enforced. In cricket, you don’t get tested for drugs often – maybe 6-7 times in as many years and that too mainly in ICC tournaments. Certainly nothing like tennis where they land up at Rafael Nadal house at 8:30 in the morning.
There is testing during bilateral series, which make up a majority of any cricketing year, but even though it is random, the lack of a whereabouts clause means that players need to be informed or it’s during practice or just after matches. So it basically means that players can do what they want through the year but come a big tournament, their system must be clean. Is that hard to do? Not really.
And that is why the Rahul Sharma case is another sign that the BCCI, the ICC and Wada need to get cracking again. They need to stop doping before it can make its presence felt in any way – the sad bit is, they may already be too late.