India: Anti-Doping Regulations In India

Last Updated: 29 August 2017
Article by Solomon & Co.


In 1998, a large number of prohibited medical substances were found by police in a raid during the Tour-de-France. This scandal highlighted the need for an independent international agency which would set unified standards for anti-doping work and coordinate the efforts of sports organizations and public authorities. The International Olympic Committee took the initiative and convened the First World Conference on Doping in Sport in February 1999, concluding in the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency (the "WADA") on 10th November, 1999. Its key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities and monitoring of the World Anti-Doping Agency Code (the "WADC"), which is the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries of the world.


India is a signatory to the Copenhagen Declaration on Anti-Doping and the UNESCO International Convention against Doping.

The Government of India set up the National Anti-Doping Agency of India (the "NADA") as a registered society on 24th November, 2005.

NADA accepted a revised version of the WADC on 7th March, 2008 and framed the Anti-Doping Rules of NADA in conformity with the WADC.

Anti-Doping Rules of NADA

Unfortunately, these Anti-Doping Rules were adopted by NADA in verbatim without taking into consideration the realities on the ground in India.

The Anti-Doping Rules place a strict responsibility on athletes to be aware of what substances enter their body. However, in India, most athletes are not educated to the same level as in foreign countries and lack adequate access to resources which would enable them to identify the ingredients of what they consume. When athletes attend and reside at training camps for several months in a year, the camps are responsible for their food and supplements and the athletes cannot be expected to monitor or refuse the food being provided to them in these camps or by their coaches.

Case study

In a recent case, six Indian athletes who were gold medallists in the Commonwealth Games were tested positive for the presence of anabolic steroids in their urine samples taken both in and out of competition.

The case became a battle between the athletes and the NADA and the National Dope Testing Laboratory in New Delhi ("NDTL") was given a special sanction to test all the supplements consumed by the athletes. The NDTL confirmed that Ginseng pills consumed by the athletes contained prohibited substances. It was not disputed that their coach provided these pills to them. It was the responsibility of the Sports Authority of India to provide for all supplements but since this was not done in spite of repeated requests, the coach purchased bottles of these supplements.

The Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel ("ADDP") held that the athletes bore "no significant fault or negligence" and issued a reprimand and suspension for a period of one year from the date of the positive test.

The NADA and the WADA filed an appeal against the first instance decision of the ADDP and the athletes also filed cross-appeals against the first instance decision of the ADDP praying for a complete reprieve. In appeal, the ADDP upheld its first instance decision.

Thereafter, the International Athletes Federation (the "IAF"), the WADA and the NADA filed a second appeal against the decision of the ADAP before the Court of Arbitration for Sports, Lausanne (the "CAS"). The CAS, under the Anti-Doping Rules of the IAF and the WADC read with the NADA Anti-Doping Rules, held that the athletes were at fault and issued the full sanction of two years' ineligibility for four of the athletes. 

At the end of the proceedings, it is the athletes who ended up losing out the most. A two-year ban for an athlete takes away a huge chunk of their career.

Analysis of the case study

The NADA Anti-Doping Rules do not take the circumstances surrounding Indian athletes into consideration. One of the athletes involved in the proceedings above was a tribal girl who was unable to converse in English or in Hindi. She could not be expected to log on to the internet and conduct research on the ingredients and dangers of supplements that contain Ginseng which were given to her by her coach.

An athlete is often not alone in taking the decision to consume illegal substances. There is pressure on coaches to achieve good results and such illegal activities are very prevalent in some sports, leading to a culture which is difficult to resist for junior athletes.


The NADA Anti-Doping Rules specifically state that it is the fault of the athlete if the supplements consumed are contaminated. An athlete is expected to conduct research before consuming any supplement. However, there is a lack of laboratories in India that carry out such specific tests on supplements and if an athlete finds such a laboratory, the cost of carrying out the tests are high.

Apart from modifying the NADA Anti-Doping Rules, other steps have to be taken by the NADA to educate athletes about the dangers of doping. Athletes should be provided with safeguards against their seniors and coaches. They should be made aware of doping substances and methods. NADA should not only engage in deterrent measures by punishing athletes but should also educate and empower them so that they can avoid doping in the first place.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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