LAHORE: Citing the rising number of doping cases among the country’s athletes, secretary of the Pakistan Olympic Association medical commission Dr Asad Abbas on Thursday said conducting 500 dope tests annually will help the authorities concerned to curb the dangerous trend once and for all.

Recently, four Pakistan weightlifters including Olympian Talha Talib were banned by the International Weightlifting Federation for doping. In 2020, three athletes of the country including two gold medallists who participated in the 2019 South Asian Games staged in Kathmandu, tested positive and were banned. Moreover, as many as seven players of the national kabaddi team failed dope test during the national championship held in Lahore earlier this year.

Dr Asad while talking to Dawn said the recent wave of doping cases among Pakistan’s kabaddi players and weightlifters signified that the use of banned substances was reaching alarming levels in the country.

“Besides organising awareness programmes, all the authorities concerned should move in unison to end this dangerous trend [of doping]. Otherwise, our athletes will not be able to participate in any international event,” Dr Asad, who is also a member of the Olympic Council of Asia medical committee, said.

“I believe at least 500 dope tests [conducted] annually by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), national sports federations and affiliated units will make it very clear to our athletes of all disciplines that it is not easy to compete internationally at any level by using banned medicines,” he reckoned.

“Every country is giving special attention on ending the practice of doping and due to the endeavours made by international testing agencies including the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) doping cases across the entire sporting world are on the decline. Unfortunately however, the situation is not the same in Pakistan where special efforts are needed to root out this menace,” the POA official underlined.

He further said that strict protocols were being adopted for this year’s Commonwealth Games being held in Birmingham from July 28 to Aug 8.

“Not a single positive dope test case was reported at the last Commonwealth Games [staged in Gold Coast] and this time the same strict policy is being followed by the organisers. Accordingly, the POA has decided to conduct the dope tests of all Pakistan athletes, who are going to compete in Birmingham, before their departure,” Dr Asad said.

During the last three years, the POA official added, he had conducted 87 seminars across Pakistan to create awareness among players against the use of banned substances.

“However, this is just one part of the entire exercise to deal with the danger of doping. The main part of it will come when we ensure random testing at least during every national-level event,” he emphasised.

Dr Asad, who has also worked as doctor of Pakistan’s junior and senior hockey teams, said the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) had been conducting players’ dope tests prior to international events for the last 20 years, adding “its result proved very positive as not a single case of any hockey player has emerged so far”.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2022

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