Gomathi dope case shows all’s not well

Gomathi Marimuthu in action

Time and again, athletes show up in the news for being tested positive for the consumption of banned substances. Those substances are usually alleged to boost the hormones in a sportsperson and thereby enhancing their performance. Certain issues revolve around the usage of drugs in the world of sports such as whether it is fair to use drugs to enhance the performance. Or whether the sportsperson has a right to consume whatever he wants. Do the athletes deserve the dehumanisation they are put through after they’re found guilty of consuming banned substances?

Sports are glamorous when clean athletes compete. When a dubious athlete walks away with a medal, it is unfair and unjust to the opponent who has spent years of his life towards the dedication of the sport and has reached the stage by natural means.

Last year Gomathi Marimuthu, middle-distance runner from Tiruchirappalli (Tamil Nadu), brought India a pleasant surprise at the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships 2019 in Doha. No doubt, Gomathi ran an excellent race in 800m winning the gold, but the belief of the fans was shattered when reports appeared a month later about Gomathi testing positive for a banned drug twice—at the Federation Cup in Patiala and the 23rd Asian Championships

Early this week, Gomathi had to face a verdict from the international disciplinary tribunal, punishing her with four years of ban from the professional sport. The ban will also strip her of the Asian gold.

 In the 1988 Seoul Olympic in South Korea, out of kilter was the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who had not heeded a growing clamour within sports that a misuse of a drug had gone far enough.

There has been a reason to suppose that some sports authorities have not pursued drug abuse as diligently as they should, or as thoroughly as they said they were; however, there was no denying the growing international mood against drug abuse in sports. After the Seoul test, Johnson had initially denied doping, but testifying before the 1989 Dubin Inquiry, a Canadian government investigation into drug abuse, he did admit that he’d lied. Johnson’s coach Charlie Francis told the investigation team that the sprinter had been using steroids since 1981.

Before the Seoul Games, Johnson and Carl Lewis were the most publicised Olympic athletes whose making in the 100m final was the most anticipated event.

“The greatest rivalry North America has seen in the last two generations played out over 10 seconds in 1988. Ben Johnson, Canadian, raced the 100-metre final against Carl Lewis, American, at the Seoul Olympics. We are still getting over it,” writes David Giddens for the CBC.

The sprint between the defending Canadian champion Johnson and the American world record holder Lewis has been called the mostwatched sprint race in the history. The race which Johnson won with divine effortlessness.

 Sports medicine expert Dr Jawahar Lal Jain says, “The list of banned substances issued by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) continues to grow as pharmacological experts discover new performance-enhancing compounds.”

Now a big question mark is the suspension of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) which is currently suspended by WADA. Despite many effective measures, NADA and SAI remain in the doldrums, especially after the retirement of scientist and dope Director Dr Shiela Jain.

Meanwhile, Gomathi has claimed to be “not guilty”, suggesting the steroid might have been unintentionally imbibed through non-vegetarian food she consumes. The writer is a former Associate Professor, Delhi University.