New Delhi, April 2, 2013- India’s most successful boxer Vijender Singh faces the most important bout of his life.
The sports ministry on Monday left him no room for manoeuvre and asked the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to test the Beijing Olympic bronze medallist after the Punjab Police sensationally revealed that he had repeatedly purchased heroin.
Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Jitendra Singh told Mail Today, “We have asked NADA to conduct a special heroin test which is not routine. The test will be done within a week. Currently, there are reports on this and we want to clear the air.”
Clearing the air
Outlining the reasons for asking NADA to step in, the minister said, “We do the funding and coaching for Vijender. Literally, everything is being done by us. Besides, the media has been speculating on the case and stories have been floating around over his involvement with drug peddlers. It is incumbent on me to take the lead in the matter, so I decided that we need to clear the air.” The minister said that Vijender, who was last tested by NADA in July 2012, had not contacted the government or NADA.
While he has reportedly agreed to undergo blood and urine tests, it will be interesting to see if he agrees to give a hair sample, which is most likely to have traces of heroin, as claimed by the Punjab Police. This will be an out-of-competition test and while he may not attract sanctions from the anti-doping agency even if he tests positive for heroin consumption, he is almost certain to attract stern action from the government. In fact, the sports ministry has minced no words in stating that the champion boxer will have to face the consequences if he fails the NADA test.
“We want the NADA to test him separately for heroin besides the other routine out-ofcompetition tests,” sports secretary P.K. Deb said, adding: “We don’t want to pre-judge the results and situation.”
National boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu also wants Vijender to come forward and give his samples to the investigating agencies to clear the air. “The investigating agencies wanted to move the court to have him tested. He should himself come forward and provide his samples to make things clear. The investigating agencies will get the samples tested from an accredited laboratory, so there is nothing to hide if you are not wrong. And, if he has done something wrong, he should come out and apologise,” the coach said.
The boxer’s alleged links with drug peddler Anoop Singh Kahlon have already put him in a spot of bother after the recovery of 26kg of heroin from Zirakpur near Mohali on March 3. Things have turned worse for Vijender, who has not been seen in public since the drugs seizure, as the Punjab Police have claimed that the boxer knew Kahlon well and bought drugs 12 times in the recent past.
“Addiction to a drug depends on the regularity with which a drug is taken. Even small doses taken regularly over a period of time can make a person addicted to a particular drug or a narcotic substance,” said Dr Anoop Mishra, Director and Head, Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, Fortis Group of Hospitals and a professor of internal medicine at AIIMS.
However, there are inherent weaknesses in a NADA test even if Vijender tests positive. While the anti-doping agency is yet to get back to the ministry on the tests, it says that it will have to go by its own protocol which does not allow it to conduct an out-of-competition test on an athlete for heroin, which is prohibited only in-competition. “The standard protocol of NADA or WADA, for that matter, does not allow an out-of-competition test for heroin since it is prohibited only in-competition,” NADA director general Mukul Chatterjee told Mail Today.
He said NADA is an autonomous body and works independently. “We will test him. For elite athletes, we can conduct both blood and urine tests. But when the sample goes to the National Dope Testing Laboratory it will be marked as collected out-ofcompetition, so the NDTL officials will not test the sample for heroin,” Chatterjee added.
NADA can do it
It is now being suggested that the ministry could ask NADA to work out a procedure to test the ace boxer for the substance.
In order to maintain secrecy, Vijender’s sample can be sent along with some other samples collected out-of-competition. There is a further stumbling block in the government’s efforts to clear the issue over Vijender. NADA is capable of conducting urine and blood tests to detect the presence of prohibited substances but hair sampling, which Vijender has been evading, is something that the NDTL may not be equipped to handle.
Sports medicine experts say that if Vijender has not consumed heroin in more than a month, there is a good chance that the results of his blood and urine samples will be negative. However, test of hair samples may spill the beans since the strands can have the traces of heroin for up to 90 days.
Kahlon and Ram Singh have reportedly detailed the procurement and consumption of the drug by Vijender. They have also provided the dates and the location where Vijender took heroin. The assertions made by them were later corroborated by the mobile location of the boxer.