Bindra’s whereabouts

Abhinav Bindra demystifies the ‘whereabouts’ clause in the WADA dope code.

“It’s a simple process,” said Bindra. “Once you have a login for yourself, you create your profile by entering in the mandatory location details: a mailing address, your residential address, your usual training address and a likely competition address, for the next three months.”

Fair enough. But then again, when was the last time Abhinav had to (1) Turn up for an ad shoot, with all the delays it entails? (2) Turn up for a sponsor function/event, with ditto?

Strikes me the life of a star cricketer is slightly more complex, and slightly less amenable to the ‘wake up, pee, train, eat, sleep, rinse, repeat’ lifestyle Bindra talks of in this post.

I’m not suggesting it can’t be done — the question I cannot find an answer for is, is it necessary, should it be done, aren’t there other, less invasive, alternatives? [And the answer to these questions cannot be, oh, but so many others have accepted, so what’s the fuss?].

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36 thoughts on “Bindra’s whereabouts

  1. Prem – I think the Cricketers have got it completely wrong.

    I read in Lance Amstrong’s biography as to how much he detests these folks who wake him at 5 AM/6AM in the offseason to collect his urine sample. However, he also states that he understands the need for it as Cycling is one of the most tarnished sports. Also, don’t know if you knew that Mike Rasmussen was kicked off Tour De France when he was in the Yellow Jersey for lying about his whereabouts in the offseason.

    That should lay the case for the need to have a whereabout system.

    . I checked the tour calendar for our cricketers. They spent about 7-8 months/year on cricketing duties (Intl+Dom) over the last 2 years and the remaining time was spent with family, sponsors or thereof. I see no reason why these cricketers or BCCI cannot hire a secretary for each of these gentlemen who can update the WADA site of the address/time for the test. (I don’t know the rule but i am assuming that the player can change the schedule till about 24 hours prior!)

    • And by the way, i don’t think that the right to privacy is valid here. The cricketers sign a agreement with BCCI and if WADA/Whereabout clause is part of the contract, then RtP isn’t valid.

      • Oh but wait, the WADA clause is not part of the existing contract — which is precisely why you have this standoff, since the question is on whether the cricketers should sign on to this or no. The existing contract, which the cricketers have signed, makes no mention of their announcing their whereabouts at stipulated intervals, or indeed at all.

        • Don’t the cricketers have yearly contracts? If so, it would be covered as BCCI signed-off on WADA commitments last year? Isn’t it?

          If BCCI didn’t add the WADA clause in the contract, then they are a bunch of idiots (didn’t we know that already!)

  2. We all agree (I guess) that off season sampling is a must to detect drug usage.

    And we all agree that a player in the know can easily hide it if he knows in advance when he is going to be tested.

    Therefore, the only solution is random sampling during off season.

    If I am to do a random sample now, I should know the whereabouts of the player now, am I correct? Unless I know where he is now, how the heck am I going to collect his sample?

    This implies, the WADA whereabout clause is a necessary condition for off season testing. QED.

    Whether it is sufficient is something for WADA to answer. It depends on the accuracy of their testing methodologies.

    • And ideally, all sportspersons should come under this net – and not just a select few. But then that may become a logistics nightmare.

      • Again, not if you go by the method I suggested — that bit about calling up applies to any player at any time; who doesn’t have a damn cell phone, these days?

        • I agree – if they can work it out for any sportsperson, that will be ideal. Testing the top guys alone will hardly serve the purpose.

    • And consider this – actually this whereabouts clause is the least invasive. It gives the sportsperson the opportunity to let people know where he will be available at any point in time…..and not where all he is going. All that he has to do is be within the vicinity so that he can show up in a few mins of being alerted.

      On the other hand, if these people are forced to carry a GPS device with them that will allow WADA to monitor their movements and swoop in anytime to test, that would have been hugely invasive.

      They are better off with this clause. BCCI had better shut the heck up and submit to the guidelines or come up with an ingenious and workable solution (highly unlikely).

      • No one said anything about a GPS device or any such. If someone calls me on the cell and tells me he needs five minutes of my time and asks, when is it possible, I can respond without having to tell him that I am currently in bed with a woman who is not my wife — or whatever else I happen to be doing, that is no one’s business but my own. Plus, it does not burden me with additional bureaucracy, with the need if and when [and it happens very often in daily life] my calendar goes out of kilter by an hour or three. Who the heck has the time, or the need, to remember what I told WADA I’d be doing at 6 in the evening day after tomorrow, only I then changed my mind because something else came up so, oops, hang on, taking you to the hospital can wait, let me find an internet connection first and update my whereabouts listing.

        • that is precisely what is required. All that the player has to update is the immediate whereabouts – not the EXACT location. I get a call and I get half an hour to meet this guy. That should be sufficient.

          but the whereabouts clause is still required as Jabberwocky says below. Otherwise, it is likely that I tell the WADA guy that I am in Timbuctoo.

          • Plus with today’s iPhones and Blackeberry’s and what not, it is easy to keep your calendar up to date even on the run. It is a pain, yes, but unavoidable given how drug abuse is killing sports worldwide.

            • You miss the point: the fact that I *can* do something is not a good enough reason for me to do it, if it infringes on one of my most fundamental rights.

              You want to test me, call and come, no problem. If I evade, saying I am in Timbuctoo or wherever, take action — three strikes, whatever action you see fit. [These are minor details, easily sorted out]

              But don’t expect me to tell you where I am — that is quite simply none of anyone’s damn business.

              • That will be a logistical nightmare. Let us assume that I want to test Yuvraj Singh today at 2pm. So I give this guy a call at 11 am (just enough time to ensure that no camouflaging can be done). I am at Delhi and can fly down to Bombay or Chandigarh in time.

                But Yuvraj says I am in Rameswaram on a pilgrimage. Care to come here and take the sample? What then? There is no possible way for me to send someone even from Madras to Rameswaram within that time span to test.

                So the logical option is for Yuvraj to tell me in advance that I will be in Rameswaram on so and so dates. And at Chandigarh on so and so dates. I can then arrange people to either collect the same at Rameswaram (fly and drive the guy out in time) or decide not to.test that day at all.

                • Consider your logic of 2 pm and 11 am.

                  I tell the WADA guys, under the whereabouts clause,I will be in Chandigarh at 2 pm on so and so date and at 10 am I go purge my system of whatever it is that I have taken.

                  My idea is, a few hours is not enough time to purge out the drugs in your system. Else you can do them, and purge them out of your system safely even if you tell WADA where you will be at a particular time on a particular day.

                  • Man, this thing has taken on a life of its own.

                    So, a question: did WADA, before it came up with its revised code on the first day of this year, have a comparable dialog, consider available options, get as broad based a consensus as possible?

                    If cricket is all that important, which cricketer or cricketers did WADA approach for feedback, prior to issual of this ukase?

    • No. It merely implies that WADA has to be able to lay its hands on a player with an hour or three of notice — where the hell is the problem with that? All the player has to do is provide a valid cellphone. WADA calls, says hi hello, I’m in town and need to test you today, make ten minutes for me, thank you very much.

      • Say you want to test player A today. Call him up on his cell phone (the number of which he would be required to provide to WADA) and ask him where he is? He says I am in country X, city Y. Should take the WADA representative in that country a few hours to fly and reach him and carry out the test.

        Starting with this basic idea, one can sit down and iron out the smaller chinks, if any, to come up with a system that is as effective as the current one.

          • Eh? If a WADA guy is not available, why is that my problem? I’d presume you have the sense to call me only if you have the logistics sorted out.

          • Nothing so extreme. WADA would have representatives in each country that has sports organizations that are signatories of its agreements.

            It would take the person a few hours to fly down to wherever it is that the said player is.

            Here is a simple idea. Sit down, and write down, starting from today, where you will be for one hour, everyday, for the next 90 days. Do this every three months. At the end of the third time you miss turning up at the mentioned place, quit your job for two years. At the end of it, you will probably understand the logic of Option B a little better.

            Add security threat to it if you want to make the game more interesting.

  3. The criticisms, if you can call them that, seem to be addressing everything else except the main point. The argument most cited is the “Everyone else has done it so…are you suggesting you are bigger than them? Are you bigger than Tiger Woods, huh?”. Where at all was the question of who is bigger than whom in the whole debate? The point was “What is the simplest way to ensure fool-proof testing of sportsmen for drug abuse?”

    The one currently being used (with the “whereabouts” clause in it) is definitely invasive, irrespective of who signed it. Just because someone else has signed it, it does not change the fundamental fact of what the clause is – invasive. That some one has signed it merely reflects the fact that he/she has weighed their pros/cons and decided its just better for them to sign it than miss whatever it is they will miss by being left out. It reflects their personal choice, not the nature of the clause.

    I do not see any difference at the level of effectiveness in the alternative that, for example, Prem suggests and what you can get from the one currently in practice (the whereabouts one). What you want is a drug-free sport and that you are able to ensure by it, so what is the objection against adopting that in the place of the existing one?

    And about sympathies for our cricketers… that is mixing ones personal prejudice of some thing in coming to the judgment. The because-they-are-so-hence-they-deserve-to-be-so argument is not based on an objective thinking process. That is not the point either. The point is, what is the simplest way to ensure a drug free sport. How much money our cricketers make and hence they deserver or not to be treated thus, is besides it.

    • Exactly! The whole debate has degenerated into an ad hominem series revolving not around the clause, but around a few ‘overpaid, pampered cricketers’ — more’s the pity.

  4. The cricketers do not have my sympathies.

    The whereabouts clause was adopted by the Association of Tennis Professionals in 2008 if my memory serves me right. There was a similar hue & cry against it from a number of players including none other than Rafael Nadal. But ATP put its foot down and the WADA designated inspectors do turn up every now & then at players’ doorsteps (wherever they are). It was during one such visit that Richard Gasquet (top 15 if not 10) was found to have traces of cocaine in his A/B samples. He got off citing some technical reasons (don’t know since when has kissing become such a reason!); but, that’s another story http://www.tennis.com/news/news.aspx?id=180074 / http://www.itftennis.com/shared/medialibrary/pdf/original/IO_42899_original.PDF

    The point is that performance enhancing drugs are routinely taken by many in the world of sport. Maybe our cricketers are clean in this regard..maybe not. Testing is an attempt to have discipline, keep the sport clean and make the performances credible. Yes… it is invasive, inconvenient and a 100 other adjectives. Unless someone can suggest a non-invasive, convenient solution, what is the point in knocking down testing in its current form?

    There is an argument that sports-persons in the know are one step ahead of the testers. But that is hardly a logic to be used against testing.

    Coming back to the point, the cricketers do not have my sympathies.

    • vyes: I remember throwing the Gasquet case up there on Twitter — found it hilarious, at the time.

      I am not suggesting that sportsmen shouldn’t be tested — merely playing devil’s advocate and asking, is this the best method? See an elaboration below, in response to another question.

    • I don’t think other sports persons have to face the same kind of security threat that cricketers, especially from the subcontinent, have to face. Aren’t you forgetting what happened at Lahore, a little too quickly? Now, the Lahore incident could have easily been planned to target the Indian team but for Sri Lanka replacing India.

      Personal information in India is far from being secure given the leakages we have seen in the past from innocuous emails to defense secrets. Providing whereabouts info for the next 3 months of high profile cricket players in a country which has lost a Prime Minister, a former Prime Minister, a badminton star and a host of other celebrities to assasinations is not just inviting trouble but downright ludicrous.

      I don’t think the cricketers are after your sympathies to exercise their fundamental right.

      • All of these are valid points, but I am coming from a far more fundamental direction: constitutions everywhere permit, in fact mandate, an individual’s fundamental right to privacy.

        To demand that I let you know every minute of the day where I am going to be militates against that constitutional right, and it doesn’t matter how many hundreds of sportsmen are prepared to buy into it, it is still unconstitutional, and deserves to be challenged.

        That does not automatically imply a free pass for drug cheats. I agree that it needs to be stamped out, that testing in and out of season is necessary, etc — but common sense can help you come up with a dozen formulas to achieve the same ends, without these nonsensical provisions.

        Cricketers may have been the triggers here, but this is not about cricketers — the issue is considerably larger, and merits more than the ongoing he-said they-said back and forth that is passing for informed debate.

        • Prem,
          On the fundamental issue of Privacy-
          Today Cell Phones have become all pervasive,the moment you possess one -your privacy is longer yours! It’s easy with a cell id to know who is where that is why Location based services are popular,to locate every individual in India is difficult but 20 cricketers damn easy man! The WADA is not about a question of privacy-if any cricketer wants to avoid signing up he can leave the game-he can have all his privacy,in fact the BCCI can enable offseason testing easily through the cricket associations spread all over India-If a Bhajji says he is in Lucknow-the WADA rep can work with UP association toget it done (Flights can have airmarshals)WADA and BCCI have enough resources to work out the logistics.Change is never easy-our cricketers need to accept change.Maybe will help a few to rehabilitate.

        • Mr. Pre Panicker is right about WADA given whats happened to the Belgian girl for not reporting whereabouts. This is ABSOLUTELY UNCONTITUTIONAL and must be challenged. There has to be another way of testing.

          WADA NEEDS TO BE CHALLENGED and should be sued over this.

  5. Think the argument against is the users are always one step ahead than the testers – I read somewhere a urine test is almost always cheatable and only the know nothings will get caught in one such test…

  6. No easy answers here Prem but if the objective behind whereabouts clause is off-season testing ( which is when most of the doping is likely to happen) then it has to be done by whatever means. I don’t think our star cricketers life is more complex than Nadal, Federer, Tiger Woods and so why make an issue about it.

    Reminds me of all the fuss made about sponsors logo around 2003 WC and all for nothing.

    BCCI is increasingly turning out to be a big bully whether right or wrong and this is one more instance where they flex their muscles.

    • Fair enough. And I am not arguing a case for a ‘cricketers’ only’ exemption — my problem is I find the basic code cumbersome and invasive, for all sportsmen.

      Hence an alternative suggestion: Every sport and every sportsman who signs on is on notice that he will be tested with almost no warning. To do this, a WADA representative merely has to land up in town and either directly or through the sports body, get in touch with the sportsman it intends to test and tell him, right, I need your time, for ten minutes, anytime in the next 2/3 hours.

      You don’t then need to create pools — which strikes me as self-defeating, since it signals to the others that they are not at risk of testing and hence can do what they want; you can test anyone any time, and you don’t burden sportsmen with all these requirements [it is not always easy to get on the internet, for instance — what if you try and fail at the critical point, and get a strike against your name?]

      Repeat, since this is important: I am in no way suggesting that cricket alone should be exempt from testing; merely arguing that there are other ways of doing the same thing, even better.

      • The problem with your suggestion is in the logistics. Unless you have a wide network of WADA representatives in the country who when given only a short-notice go to the place where the player is put up and collect the sample, it might not be feasible. There is no guarantee that the player is going to be in his/her hometown.

        • WADA representatives will not be working on short notices. They can plan their visit well in advance. Only the sportspersons will be on short notice.

          • How will they be able to plan well in advance if they don’t know where the player is at that moment? Prem’s alternative to the whereabouts clause was to have the WADA representative call up the player and request for his time within the next 2/3 hours. If WADA is not aware of the whereabouts the player could be anywhere in the world.

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