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The dope taint and the journey back

By Manisha Malhotra

With the dope scandal starting to cool off, it will be interesting to see how the proverbial “cookie will crumble”. Who will get the blame; who will face the consequences and who will conveniently choose to forget it all?

In all likelihood, the athletes won’t be spared. Their pleas will fall on deaf ears. And they will quietly fade away to some remote corner of the country where no one has ever heard of them or their deeds. But that’s okay for all those who knowingly took the drugs.

 The dope taint and the journey back

Seema Antil: Patience pays. Getty Images

What about the case of the athlete who inadvertently consumed a banned stimulant? How would they cope with the dope taint – the anguish, the stigma, the accusing eyes that follow them all around? How would they make a comeback; a clean comeback to prove that the failed dope test was indeed a mistake?

The path is anything but easy and few attempt it. Lesser still, make it back to big time. The lost years come back to haunt them, the lack of decent competition while surviving the ban makes them lose their edge and with a dulled blade, cutting through international competition is well-nigh impossible.

Discus thrower Seema Antil is one of those athletes who faced this exactly same predicament. A junior world champion, whose medal was stripped due to the detection of pseudoephedrine, commonly used in flu medication, in her sample, later served a ban for an undisclosed banned substance.

Over the last couple of months, I have become very close to Seema and her version — which I completely believe — is that she was new in the sport and blindly took whatever the coaches gave her. However, the scandal made her grow up quick and now she doesn’t even ingest water from the common water cooler. It’s a heavy price – this life of constant vigilance, but Seema realises there’s no other way out of this. It’s either this or the bin.

The athletes often have to pay the price for the coaches trying to cut corners and garner results without any accountability for themselves. However, it is important that athletes now stand up and get smart about what is happening. They need to realise that blind trust has no place in sport; at least not in sport that is as dirty as the Indian scene. They need to educate themselves to the best of their capabilities and learn to ask questions for everything asked from them.

Seema has learned this the hard way, once tainted you can never shake off the “dope” tag associated with your name and it takes a great deal of courage and strength to carry on after getting “caught”.

You get called for every “random” drug test, people whisper behind your back and your past performances are now worthless.

At the end of the day, it is really not worth it, it is easier to train your hardest everyday of your life than endure such stress. But there is a ray of hope, the truth is “supplementation” only enhances your performance by a maximum of 5 percent. So, if you are a decent athlete, which most of our people are, they can make a comeback.

That is why this group has a lot to learn from Seema who got “caught” with the media hounding her and paid the price and now turned the corner. In the Commonwealth Games, she finished a creditable third. A bronze is never a bad way to announce yourself – she is back and proud of it.

In my opinion, it has made her a much stronger person, which will resonate in her performances sooner or later. There’s fire in her belly and desire to prove to the world that she is good, this time without taking so much as a multivitamin.

The journey back after testing positive is mostly about belief – in yourself, in your innocence, in your talent. If the athletes say that they are innocent and truly believe in that, then nothing should stop them from fighting their way back. And if they can do that, they will feel truly blessed. That should be worth the extra effort, right?

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Updated Date: Jul 27, 2011 22:41:53 IST