The last cricketer to get gobsmacked by the much-reviled ‘whereabouts’ clause of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was Andre Russell. The West Indian all-rounder, in the prime of his career, was slapped with a one-year ban because the agency could not test him off season.
Russell was expected to make himself available for surprise tests conducted during off season, but on three separate occasions he was not found at the address submitted. This, according to WADA, constituted a failed dope test and the poor cricketer was banned for a year. The associated loss of income from the Indian Premier League, Big Bash, Pakistan Super League, and playing for the West Indies till the end of ban on 30 January, 2018 runs into crores of rupees and is something that Russell would never get back. The angst and depression caused by the ban and the treatment required to cure it is a different matter altogether.
The other famous cricketer who made plenty of headlines over a dope test was Shane Warne. The controversial Aussie leg-spinner was ejected from the 2003 World Cup just hours before the match against Pakistan for failing a dope test.
Warne had said that he had taken a “fluid reduction tablet”, a slimming agent. But WADA held that diuretics were banned because they could be used as masking agents to avoid detection of steroids!
Indian cricketers have not been worried about dope tests as the BCCI itself has a stringent policy in place. But it is the ‘whereabouts clause’ that has the cricketers up in arms.
WADA demands that elite sportsmen make themselves available for an hour between 7 am and 7 pm during the off season, so as to conduct surprise tests on them. To facilitate these tests, elite India cricketers have to disclose their ‘whereabouts’ even when they are on holiday, etc.
The Indian cricketers have strongly objected to this clause, stating that it was an intrusion into their privacy. They have also cited security fears at disclosing their ‘whereabouts’.
This apart, BCCI has openly declared that it does not come under the purview of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), which is formed on the lines of WADA.
NADA is a branch of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and that is enough for BCCI to scorn it. The cricket board has always held that it does not get a single rupee from the government and is therefore not subject to interference from government bodies.
It must be pointed out that the NADA governing council is chaired by the Union Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports, with the secretary of the same ministry as vice-chairman. Then there are a whole lot of bureaucrats along with a couple of nominated doctors. The IOA president is also a nominated member.
Naturally, why would the Board, which ploughs its own furrow and is fiercely independent, want these guys to sit in judgment of its cricketers?
BCCI CEO Rahul Johri said as much in his letter to the secretary of the department of sports:
"The BCCI already has a robust dope testing mechanism which is employed for both during competitions and out-of-competitions and the testing of samples by IDTM is already being done at WADA accredited laboratory (NDTL) under aegis of the Sports Ministry. You will appreciate that for analysis and testing of samples, BCCI adheres to the WADA International Standard of Laboratories and the WADA International Standard for Testing and Investigations.”
For good measure, he added: "BCCI would like to assure you that it has a zero tolerance approach to doping in the sport of cricket and is committed to encourage fair play in sports. BCCI follows the highest professional and ethical standards laid down by WADA to ensure that the cricketers compete in a doping-free environment in India.
The CEO who wrote the letter after last week's meeting in Mumbai was seized of this issue and was emphatic in stating, "BCCI is an autonomous sports organisation affiliated with the International Cricket Council (ICC), which governs the game globally and is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code since 2006. Whilst the BCCI acknowledges that NADA is the nodal agency responsible for implementation of anti-doping measures for all National Sports Federations in India, the BCCI is not subject to the jurisdiction of NADA.”
Thus, if BCCI is compliant with WADA and tests are being conducted as per set standards, what does the Board gain by aligning with NADA? Of course, other associations who don’t have money need the help of NADA to conduct these tests. On the other hand, BCCI would be foolish to welcome the camel into their tent. They probably know it. Hence the stinging response!