The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has finally agreed to come under the ambit of the National Anti-Doping Agency of India (NADA), after resisting for years. Prior to this, BCCI used the services of International Dope Testing Management (IDTM), which is based in Sweden, for collecting samples of cricketers, and then submitting them to the National Dope Testing laboratory (NDTL).
The BCCI had strongly opposed to be a NADA compliance claiming it was not a National Sports Federation as it did not avail any financial support from the Indian Government or the Ministry of Sports; rather it was an autonomous body and would not allow NADA to test its players. Before agreeing to come under NADA fold, the BCCI had raised three issues on which they needed clarification i.e. the quality of the dope testing kits, competence of pathologists and sample collection. On NADA's assurance about providing proper facilities for the issues raised, albeit with extra charges, BCCI finally came into terms with NADA.
The main issue of BCCI, however, was with respect to the whereabouts clause, which required every players to give their whereabouts for conducting surprise test on such players and this has been explicitly opposed by the BCCI, especially such testing on Grade A players of the Indian Cricket Team. The 'Whereabouts Clause' requires every athlete to fill up a declaration form wherein he/she would have to mention three specific dates in a year when they are not participating in any tournament, but are available for NADA's Dope Control Officer (DCO) for sample collection. If any player fails to appear on all the specified dates, it invites sanctions for breach of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) Code. The premier example of this is West Indies' all-rounder Andre Russell who was banned for one year by the Jamaican Anti-Doping Agency. BCCI availed services of Sweden-based International Dope Testing Management (IDTM) has been collecting the samples and submitting them to the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) but now it is under ambit of NADA and does not provide any special privilege to BCCI as it places it at par with other National Sports Federation.
It was a necessary move considering the recent case of Prithvi Shaw, Yusuf Pathan and other local ranji players who were protected by BCCI providing blanket protection to them in name of privacy and minimize tarnishing of reputation. The Young Indian batting star, Prithvi Shaw was retrospectively banned for eight months after testing positive for terbutaline, but serious questions were raised on the opaqueness of the management in this case and the quantum of punishment. The Prithvi Shaw case appears to have made the Ministry of Sports crack the whip on the BCCI, since he played the IPL and trained in the National Cricket Academy even after the report of his failed dope test had come to the BCCI. This was the first time, when there was a serious push from the Government towards this matter which was coupled with the fact that BCCI was at their weakest and most vulnerable, after the publication of the Lodha Committee Reform and the poorly managed IPL spot-fixing scandal. This ends the long term partnership of BCCI with IDTM, which was an outside hired agency for dope testing and now, all doping and sample collection shall pass through the NADA.
What does it mean for the ICC?
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been a WADA signatory since 2006. However, owing to BCCI's resistance to be a part of its country's Anti-Doping body, ICC couldn't be WADA compliance, since it is necessary for all the member states of ICC to adhere to the national Anti-Doping Agency of their respective countries in order to be declared compliant by WADA. However, this changes now, with the BCCI finally coming under NADA. This could also potentially mean the inclusion of cricket in the Olympic Games in the future, which has been a topic of deliberation for a long time now.
What next for the BCCI?
The implication of this development is expected to be massive as this is speculated to be the first step in forcing the BCCI to be deemed as a designated National Sports Federation (NSF) and it will face more pressure to come under the government's Right to Information (RTI) Act. It also paves way for a uniform sports legislation which is the need of the hour for a more organized and efficient sports sector in India and thus, it is a welcome move and pavement to right direction in the future of sports in India.
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