WADA is proving to be the gift that goes on giving. Here’s Mukul Kesavan, driving the argument straight down the middle of the road.
But it isn’t quite as simple as that. Cricket isn’t the only sport that has resisted WADA’s increasingly stringent testing regimes. In March this year, football’s two most powerful bodies, UEFA and FIFA, rejected WADA’s new code and asked the organisation to reconsider its rules given the special nature of team sport. Football’s administrators argued that there was a basic difference between the individual athlete who trained privately, on his own, and footballers who trained collectively six days a week and were easy to locate. Like the BCCI, they asked for an exemption for players for the off-season “…in order to respect their private lives”.
Towards the end of April, WADA and FIFA were reported to have resolved their differences, with FIFA’s president offering full compliance with WADA’s regulations. FIFA’s English affiliate couldn’t have got the message because in early August the Guardian reported that the FA was successfully resisting WADA’s plan to test its elite international players. UK Sport, acting on behalf of WADA, had settled for elite women players and junior players. FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, was pressing for “high-risk categories”, namely injured players, to be target-tested, not leading international players. This sounds remarkably as if FIFA and the English FA are asking for exemptions for their male internationals and offering their women, children and wounded as substitutes.
And it isn’t only football: the administrators of team sports like basketball, ice hockey and volleyball have all asked for clarifications. The BCCI is a soft target: a recent opinion piece on Cricinfo mocked as nonsensical the BCCI’s invocation of the Indian constitution’s guarantee of privacy. It’s useful to note that the BBC news site reported earlier this year that “[…] sixty-five Belgian sportspeople have launched a legal challenge claiming that the intrusive nature of the WADA code breaks European Union privacy laws”. If Yuvraj Singh’s objections to the WADA code seem ludicrous because he’s widely seen as one of a bunch of indulged Indian cricketers, we might attend to Rafael Nadal’s objection to the new code, or that of Andy Murray, who said : “[…] these new rules are so draconian that it makes it almost impossible to live a normal life”. According to the BBC, “[…] the British Athletics Commission (BAC) chief executive warned that the tougher regulations meant a number of British athletes would retire if they missed two tests rather than risk the possibility of a ban and the subsequent suspicion if they were absent on a third occasion”.
Normal service — the question of why the BCCI has to play spoiler — resumes with Anand Vasu on his blog.
But what exactly is the problem? Sportsmen around the world have signed on and although they complain about the tediousness of the exercise all just grit their teeth and get on with it. Just when the International Cricket Council thought they were doing the decent thing, adopting a globally accepted norm, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said “thanks, but no thanks.”
Just why does the BCCI have to get involved? Why do they have to roadblock pretty much anything the ICC comes up with, and to add insult to injury then call the apex governing body toothless? It’s a bit like asking why Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt Everest. Simply because it was there to be done and he could do it.
Can India’s players really be complaining about having to pee in a bottle when WADA’s marshals come calling? And even so, since when does the BCCI back the players when they want something? Usually when the board gets its hands dirty there’s either money or power involved. In this case there are no millions to be made, but certainly there’s power to be lost.