Is BCCI Really Not WADA-Compliant? Anti-Doping Manager Tells All

The Quint spoke to BCCI’s anti-doping manager Dr Abhijeet Salvi about the BCCI anti-doping programme.

Updated04 Aug 2019, 07:39 AM IST
7 min read

The Board of Control for Cricket in India's anti-doping programme has come under pressure since Prithvi Shaw was banned earlier this week. Naturally the BCCI anti-doping manager Dr Abhijit Salvi has come under a scanner for all the work that they have put in the last decade. Dr Salvi spoke to The Quint about the BCCI anti-doping programme, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code and the relation with National Anti Doping Agency (NADA).

Here are excerpts from the interview:

There is a misconception about WADA, ICC and BCCI. The issue with regards to whereabouts and Indian players is long solved right?

Yes, of course, the only thing which is not as per the WADA code is (that) the BCCI does not involve the NADA, the Indian National Anti-Doping Agency. That is the only exception to the WADA clause, otherwise everything is as per the WADA rules. Players too have been filing whereabouts for a long time now.

What is the issue with NADA?

The standards or the quality of NADA's anti-doping programme or even the quality of sample collection is not (good). BCCI is not happy with the standards of NADA's functioning and there have been numerous reports of NADA mismanaging athletes' positive cases or even for that matter samples. So that is one of the reasons why BCCI is not keen on working with NADA.

Is there likelihood for a compromise, WADA and ICC are pushing you?

Yes, on a trial basis, because WADA wants BCCI to be fully WADA-compliant. The only requirement was NADA's involvement. So it was agreed, though it is still in the early phases because NADA has still to agree to all the requirements that BCCI has placed in front of them. We will try on six-month trial basis to see how NADA works. That too we have certain terms and conditions where the IDTM Doping Control Officers (DCOs) will be used, not the NADA's own team and the BCCI anti-doping manager will be present at all the testing to ensure that they are following the right protocols. And to see how it goes. And then take a call in future.

Overall are WADA and ICC comfortable with the testing procedures?

Absolutely. And that is why we have involved IDTM for sample collection, who are one of the best in the world. They have been handling the complete tennis programme and a lot of other events in other sports.

And IDTM is accredited with WADA?

Yes they are accredited with WADA.

You conduct all tests throughout the domestic season under BCCI ambit from the Duleep Trophy this month till the end of IPL?

Yes, that's right.

You conduct Random tests throughout the season?

We conduct random and target-testing.

So in the case of say a Prithvi Shaw, he has been given only an eight-month ban and he was allowed to use NCA facility even when the ban would have applied. How do you respond?

Honestly, if you see Terbutaline did not make him a better cricketer or helped him perform better in any of the matches. And it honestly wouldn't. This was an inadvertent mistake. There have been cases or decisions by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) as well as WADA which BCCI has referred to in deciding the quantum of punishment. And based on that he (Shaw) had been given eight months. As per the WADA, BCCI and as well as the ICC anti-doping code providing it concluded that there was no significant fault or negligence and the player admits that he had inadvertently taken it. There is a provision even in the WADA code, to backdate the punishment to the date of sample collection. The BCCI has used that and that is why it has been backdated.

So they say NADA would have appointed an independent panel. Is that fair criticism?

For verdict I can understand. But before that we also had an independent review board, which was absolutely independent and was appointed by IDTM. These were all international experts, a scientist, a doctor and a lawyer. They had regularly handled anti-doping cases from the tennis world and other sports. The papers were referred to them. They analysed all the lab reports, the sample collection documents. Then they decided that the player had a case to answer. Once that was decided, we issued the notice of charge to the player. The player responded within five or six days through his lawyer on what the situation was and what were the scenarios. He explained when he actually consumed that cough syrup. The code mentions that there can be an agreed sanction. So we also have on board a lawyer who works on WADA cases. And take him into consultation and then drafting the final decision, we arrived at the eight-month sanction. If the player would have challenged the eight-month ban, the notice of charge mentions three things: a) the player could refute the charges saying that I do not agree that I tested positive for terbutaline, then he could go in for the B sample. Then we could have gone and got the B Sample tested, b) he could have accepted the charge, but refuted the punishment imposed upon him, c) agree to both and it would be mutually agreed sanction.

This is all as per WADA code, as well as BCCI anti-doping code and the ICC code. If he would have challenged then we would have had to appoint a hearing panel, which was not required.

So who was this lawyer?

I don't know whether we are allowed to actually reveal the name. He works closely with WADA as well. He is an international not an Indian lawyer.

Why is there a misconception that BCCI is not WADA-compliant, is it only because you don’t involve NADA?

That's what people confuse with. Just because NADA is not on board, they think BCCI is not WADA-compliant. That's the misconception people have.

Are ICC and WADA happy with BCCI?

Absolutely. We have been doing this... This is ninth year we have been conducting education programmes and the eighth year we are actually conducting tests. If ICC or WADA were not happy, then they would have pulled us up long back. If you see BCCI among all the cricket playing countries, we have been doing the most number of tests for all these years, including England and Australia. People need to accept that you cannot compare cricket with other sports like athletics, which have more risks of doping. So people put all sports in one bracket. Even recently WADA had agreed that the list has to be sport specific. You don't have to test for human growth hormone or an anabolic steroid in a chess player. Similarly cricket needs to have sport-specific or for that matter all sports need to have a sport-specific prohibited list.

Cricket being a skill-specific sport, is doping really a big risk?

Exactly, absolutely right. But I am not saying it is completely ruled out, but there are other medicines which may give the cricketers power, stamina and all of that. It needs to be a sport-specific one.

During education programme for cricketers, are they not attentive enough at these sessions. Should more be done to make it interesting for cricketers?

Every year, we improve on our performance. Like initially when we started off in 2010, we used to have an extensive anti-doping programme, where we had a three-hour anti-doping programme where we would take up each and every drug that was mentioned in the prohibited list, but then we obviously realised that these are athletes and you cannot have their concentration for such a long time. Slowly we learnt from our mistakes as well. The education programme has been getting better and better. I am right now in Dharamshala and am conducting a workshop here. We have curtailed it down and we stress on the most important thing that they need to remember. One of which is the BCCI's anti-doping helpline, which is available to them 24x7. They can call us, text message us or WhatsApp us. This is now a key part of our education programme. Inspite of that if some people miss out. In fact, if you see in all these years we have had six positive tests, out of all the tests we have conducted. The number of drug queries we get. That's a lot. Most people who are aware of it are more than actually the people who are missing out and testing positive. I think the effective rate is more than the failure rate.

You are a one-man army, is that a deterrent to the programme?

Right now, in future we are looking at. Until two years back it was myself and Dr (Vece) Paes, we were able to manage it. Even now I am able to manage it. There have been no issues as such. We do get support, whenever during the education programme, we do have experts who have been working with BCCI and other sports coming to help us. It’s not like I work all by myself. Whenever there are two states asking for help, asking for education programme on the same date, we do have people going around and doing it. But in future yes, we will increase as the requirements grow. We will increase the strength and have a full fledged department.

Can all states (associations) have anti-doping manager and programmes?

I don't think so. All states will not have an anti-doping code or programme. They will only follow the BCCI's anti-doping code. So every state having an anti-doping manager is not going to help much, to be honest.

How can Prithvi Shaw ensure he does not fall into the same trap again?

I am sure he has learnt a lesson. I doubt if he will ever make this mistake again. From this, in fact, a lot of other players in the country are learning a lesson as well. When the Yusuf Pathan incident happened a couple of years back, the number of phone calls and messages on the anti-doping helpline had spiked. So many of them who would normally take it casually, started calling in regularly. This is another wake up call for other cricketers too.

(Chandresh Narayanan is a former cricket writer with The Times of India, The Indian Express, ex-Media Officer for ICC and the Delhi Daredevils. He is also the author of World Cup Heroes, Cricket Editorial consultant, professor and cricket TV commentator.)

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Published: 02 Aug 2019, 02:47 PM IST

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