|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, June 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
Doping and athletes’ fall from grace
The ‘Royal Springs’ is blooming, say visitors who play a round on this marvellous course. "Even when we get physically tired, we want to continue playing four-ball so captivating is the environment", said a few foreigners on their return from Srinagar. is a beauty which should be seen to be believed", they added.
All Indian pros and, maybe, some leading foreign players, will be seen in action on the course in the third week of July. "We have received a verbal approval and are awaiting official letter before we announce the dates for the competition", said spokesman of the Tiger Sports Marketing, which has successfully changed the profile of Indian golf in a few years.
The course is a kind of a parting gift to Jammu and Kashmir by the former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, himself a golf addict. Luckily, the flower planted by him is blooming because the new government has shown interest in rebuilding tourism through golf. Small groups of players have been playing on the course and soon there will be a ‘dhamaka’ on the course.
The TSM is optimistic that the 2003-04 calendar will be even stronger than the one the previous year. "We had a total prize money of Rs 2.35 crore last year", said the TSM official, adding: "This year we will be having prize money of more than Rs 2.65 crore." As against last year’s 24 tournaments, the TSM is hoping for at least 25-26 competitions. "If we reach a magic figure of Rs 3 crore, we will think we have done something for the promotion of golf in the country", said the official.
This is the age of sponsors and marketing. The conservative sponsors have at long last realised that sponsorship to sports is much more rewarding than passive and good-for-nothing advertisements. A tiny TSM, which started from a scratch a few years ago, has seen to it that golf has gained in stature and status in the country to such an extent that even commoners are following it with keen interest.
Hunt for talent
Many talented and promising youngsters have surfaced in the on-going Junior Training Programme, organised by the Delhi Golf Club (DGC). "We are satisfied with the progress of pupils", said Ramesh Kohli, adding: "We will now evaluate their strength and progress when we watch them play in the Amit Verma Tournament form June 24 to 27.
All JTP pupils are eligible to play in the Amit Tournament. Amit, a promising youngster, died prematurely some years ago. But his father, Mr N. K. Verma, a keen follower of the game, and the DGC conduct this tournament to unearth fresh talent. The tournament, well conducted, has grown in stature and befitting prizes and scholarships are presented to worthy youngsters. There is a need for one or two more such tournaments for youngsters because one in a year is not enough.
A fiery Sevy
A battling Sevy Ballesteros was penalised for slow play in the Italian Open. He had reportedly taken longer time on two holes than stipulated. Irked at this punishment, he deliberately altered his card and was disqualified from the tournament.
"Ten years ago, I could have taken a minute and a half to play one shot and it was OK, but I am not important any more", said infuriated Sevy.
Golf continues to be a gentleman’s game but some officials misuse authority vested in them. Englishmen are no longer the men of integrity they were. They seem to adhere to two sets of rules —one for favourites and another for others.
Doping and athletes’ fall from grace
Shakespeare's line "O what a fall was there, my countrymen" in Julius Caesar perhaps can aptly describe the fall from grace of prominent athletes, victims of the ever-growing menace of doping. Over the years the malaise has taken firm roots and charges of drug abuse by prominent sportspersons, some of which were proved through sample tests, has shaken the faith of aspiring athletes, who sought to make it big through sweat and toil, but felt betrayed in the face of unfair practices adopted by track and field cheats.
Nothing can be more shameful than one's fall from grace and the hurt accompanying withdrawal of honours is an emotional hearbreak. One often comes across instances of young men and women falling from the pedestal of glory due to their own making. Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson had created a flutter in international athletics when he created a world record in 100 metres at the Seoul Olympics, clocking 9.79 seconds. However, his urine test made a startling revelation. He had consumed the banned substance stanaozolol, allegedly in connivance with his coach, Charlie Francis, to gain an unfair advantage over other competitors. Overnight the gold medal, the world record and millions in endorsement money accruing to the world's "fastest man" were snatched away and gifted to legendary sprinter Carl Lewis.
However, what is even more worrisome is the fact that allegations of a cover-up have lately been levelled in respect of athletes who were allowed to compete after failing drugs tests between 1988 and 2000. Former USOC drug tsar Wade Exum recently claimed that top athletes, including nine-times Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis, had tested positive for drugs more than 100 times in that period. Only a handful were banned from competing. According to documents released by Exum, the USOC had actually disqualified Lewis from competing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics but then accepted his appeal on the basis that he had taken a herbal supplement and was unaware of its contents.
Results of urine samples which return positive tests for dope or banned performance-enhancing drugs are a shattering experience not only for the athlete but for the country men who pin their hopes on their stars. Long distance runner Sunita Rani, who was stripped of her medals following positive dope tests at the Busan Asian Games but later had her honours restored, and weightlifters K Madasamy and Satheesa Rai, who gained notoriety after testing positive during the Manchester Commonwealth Games, are only latest in the series of sportspersons who were charged with doping in sports. Earlier, weightlifter N. Kunjarani Devi and badminton star Aparna Popat served bans for similar offences.
Glamour and money in the sports arena, at times, prompts sportspersons to put their future at stake in order to corner glory. However, in many cases they end up disgracing not only themselves but the entire country while casting aspersions on genuine performers.
Says Col Raminder Singh, former Director Sports, Punjab : "Doping is a universal problem. Punjab has also suffered on this account. If timely action is not taken, the menace will take a heavy toll in the coming years," he says. "The menace is not restricted to top-level competitions but is well entrenched at the grass roots like the subjunior and junior level." The former Director's stance is not without basis. In the aftermath of the Sunita Rani episode at the Busan Asian Games, a study conducted at some of the well-known training venues in Punjab, including the border district of Amritsar, revealed a growing interest among youngsters to take the short-cut route to success through banned substances. And in some cases, help and guidance comes from none else than coaches and trainers. Sadly in India a coach's career depends on the performance of his trainees, hence the tendency to adopt short-cuts.
"What is indeed cause for worry is the tendency to bail out the defaulters," says Col Raminder Singh. "People who deserve no mercy are let off easily. This needs to be checked. Serious efforts and not mere formalities are the need of the hour to root out the menace," he adds.