Chandigarh : World Cup Kabaddi may have started off on the right note – by engaging Punjab’s youth in the traditional sport and weaning them away from drugs – but the doping taint on Punjabi players from other countries has taken the wind out of its sails.
A brainchild of Deputy Chief Minister and Sports Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, the tournament was highlighted as a showcase event of the Punjab government. However, it has been left embarrassed by a growing number of players testing positive for drug use.
The entire Australian team has been suspended from the tournament by its technical committee after seven of its players tested positive. While five Canadian players have tested positive for drugs, the US and British teams also have four and five such players each.
“So far over 30 players have already tested positive for the use of banned drugs. Most of them were found using performance enhancing drugs by anti-doping agency officials,” a Punjab sports department official said.
On Monday, the remaining players from the US team refused to provide samples to the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) at Hoshiarpur, a spokesman of the organisers said. The US team has already made it to the semi-final round of the tournament and their fate will be decided by the technical committee.
Sources in the department said 25 percent of the samples of players picked up randomly by the NADA officials had tested positive.
“In one instance, three players from a foreign team ran away after the officials asked for their samples for dope testing. In another incident, a player from another country tried to manipulate the sample by replacing his urine with water,” the official said.
“We are taking strict action against the players testing positive. We had told the teams beforehand about the strict rules on use of drugs,” said Punjab sports director Pargat Singh, who is himself a hockey Olympian and former Indian hockey team captain.
A NADA official wondered how so many players using drugs could be selected for the kabaddi event that began Oct 31 and will be on till Nov 20.
“I don’t know what the organisers are doing. If more players test positive, some of the teams will run out of players even before the teams reach the semi-final stage,” he said.
“We will not show any mercy towards players who test positive for drugs. We want to keep it a drug-free tournament,” a spokesman for the tournament said.
Though teams from 14 countries are participating in the men’s section of the tournament, the majority of players are of Punjabi origin settled in those countries.
The teams have not been officially designated by the authorities or the sports federations of those countries and are not even regular and recognized club sides there. In some of the countries like Norway, Afghanistan, Argentina, Germany and Australia, kabaddi is neither recognized as a sport nor known to people.