Cricket teams, including India, will undergo blood-testing for the first time as per the World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines at the ICC Champions Trophy to be played in June this year. It’s learnt by The Indian Express that the Indian players were given an explanatory lecture about the effectiveness of the tests by an ICC doping team during the first ODI between India and England in Pune last month. According to a source in the BCCI, they were informed about why it was high time that cricket too adopted the more high-tech methods of preventing and eventually eradicating the evil of performance-enhanced drugs from sport.
“Cricket has been WADA compliant since 2006 but our players still only undergo in-competition random tests, where their urine samples are collected. But there are a lot of performance enhancing drugs and steroids in circulation out there which aren’t visible in urine samples but will show up in your blood. Blood-testing is part of what WADA terms ‘smart testing’,” the source explained.
“The cricketers were understandably wary of having their blood drawn. But they were briefed on how it’s for the good of the game and they agreed,” he added.
Blood-testing though is only one of the new procedures that is being introduced in the cricket world. Cricketers will from here on also each have an ‘athlete biological passport’ being maintained, which is a norm for all other sportspersons in the world.
A biological passport basically will be a ‘longitudanal’ blood profile of an athlete that’ll be used as a reference point. The blood sample collected during the Champions Trophy will be preserved for 10 years. Fresh samples will be collected from each player once every six months and compared with the original sample to see if there are any abnormal variations.
“The blood profile therefore will be studied every six months. This is a more sophisticated technique, which will help in conducting more targeted tests and provide clearer evidence of doping,” the source said.
That’s not all. WADA’s smart testing protocol also recommends sports-specific profiling. In case of cricket, the blood samples will also be used for specific growth hormone tests in certain cases.
“You would look at the explosiveness of a batsman or a fast bowler for example and do a growth hormone test just to eliminate the doubt of whether any illegal methods have been used,” he said.
Cricket has overall not been engulfed by the menace of doping like a number of other high-profile sports. Conventional wisdom has always suggested that cricket being a skill-based sport hasn’t pushed its players to use any illegal substances to enhance their performance.
Potential doping problem
But the mushrooming of franchise-based T20 leagues and the emergence of ‘freelance agents’ in the cricket world have pushed cricket closer to a potential doping problem. Some even liken T20 cricket to baseball, a power-based sport that’s been riddled with doping issues for decades now.
And the temptation for cricketers to go rogue in terms of steroid-abuse has never been more real.
“In baseball a game is won or lost with a home-run. The same goes for T20 cricket. It’s a game based on explosiveness in batting, bowling and fielding. The stakes are high and the money is massive and there are so many players now who don’t necessarily come under the scanner of their national boards,” the source said.
Statistically too cricket remains a ‘clean’ sport. Since 2003, Pradeep Sangwan is the only Indian cricketer to have tested positive for doping. Globally there haven’t been more than three or four cases either. While the percentage of drug-abusers in other sports stands at 1.4, it’s close to negligible when it comes to cricket. But is it just because the techniques of testing haven’t been as effective?
“Urine-testing has so far only given us one positive result. But does that mean we should be happy that cricket remains a clean sport or are we sitting on a ticking bomb? Blood-testing and smart-testing could provide us the answer,” he said.
Source: Indian Express