Doping menace: AFI announces equal penalties for coaches & athletes

Sampling equipment
An attendee handles the sampling equipment during a training for doping controllers in Paris on April 22, 2023. File photo: AFP/Franck Fife

New Delhi: Introducing a revolutionary policy that aims to hold coaches accountable for failed dope tests of their wards, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Friday announced equal punishment for both in the event of adverse analytical finding.

By extending the consequences of failed dope test to coaches, the AFI hopes to create a culture of clean sports and reinforce the message that doping will not be tolerated at any level.

AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said "it's high time perpetrators are called out, named and shamed."

"If an athlete is found doping and is given a sentence, their coach will get a similar sentence from AFI," Sumariwalla told reporters during an interaction with media after AFI's Executive Council meeting.

"The coach will be as responsible because this whole issue of doping has gone beyond control. High time people are called out and they are named and shamed and action is taken against them," he added.

"All coaches have to register with the AFI including NIS (National Institute of Sports)  diploma holders. While filling their dope forms, whenever they are called for dope control, the athletes will have to declare the name of their coach."

This way there will be clear identification of who is the coach, which will also prevent a scramble for the cash reward when the athlete succeeds.

"When an athlete wins, the coaches are ready to run and take their cash awards. There can't be only carrot there, there has to be a stick for them also. For one athlete there are five coaches to claim the cash reward."

The AFI has been considering this policy for six months, engaging in discussions with various agencies. The decision comes after consultations with stakeholders at different levels.

Coaches whose athletes are found guilty of doping will be barred from entering stadiums or accompanying any team.

"We will ban the coach. We will inform the Army, Navy, Air Force. We are already working with all these people to say that these people (the coaches) should also be suspended. We will not let them enter the stadium. We will not let them accompany any team. We will not recognise them."

Additionally, the AFI will advocate for the suspension of these coaches from their government positions.

"We are also now working with state governments to say these people have to be removed from whatever post that have been created. If we have to host the Olympics, we will have to improve our game and make sure that we fight this whole menace of doping."

Digitisation of certificates

The AFI has also decided to digitise certificates. The certificates of merit will be uploaded on Ministry of Electronics & IT's flagship initiative - DigiLocker.

"We have decided on digitisation of all certificates. We have been finding a lot of issues of fraudulent certificates. People are forging certificates, taking somebody else's certificates and changing the name and a lot of things to get jobs, promotions etc."

"The government asks us if they are real. This way the government will have access to all the certificates and can directly check," he said.

Participation certificates will, however, be available to download from the federation's website.

The AFI also said that from now onwards technical officials will also be punished.

"There have been some issues in the past on technical conduct. If they fail in their respective areas of technical duty, then the technical official will have to face consequences. And AFI will take appropriate action against them."

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