About time we stopped cribbing about cricket

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Now that the B Sample of Ashwini Akkunji & Co has also turned out positive, from an Indian perspective, the Commonwealth Games (CWG) of 2010 can be summed up by two simple words.

Shock.

And shame.

Shock, because the fat cats who were in charge of organising the games (like the bearded dude on the left, above) are cooling their heels in Tihar jail for having succumbed to their natural instinct to loot the exchequer.

And shame, because some of the athletes who brought laurels to the country (like the smiling girls in the picture) have now been revealed to have artificially boosted their performance.

Only the swanky stadia, swimming pools and velodrome—and the  spit and polish that was provided to the nicer parts of Lutyen’s Delhi—stand testimony to the games. If they are still standing, that is.

The Great Indian Dope Trick past shows a deep-rooted malaise afflicting the non-cricket sports scene in our country.

The cliched question is, where have we gone wrong? The short answer is: from the very beginning.

For decades satraps have usurped powers befitting nabobs and run various sports bodies like their own fiefs with the sports ministry having little or no teeth to discipline them. More often they have colluded with officials in looting the public money, as is evident in the CWG scam.

Most athletes, till recently, didn’t have decent training facilities or equipment, either in terms of boarding and lodging or sports gear.

Who can forget the badminton coaching camp for an international event that had to be abandoned and the shuttlers sent back because they had not arranged for the shuttlecocks?

Or that some sarkari babu sat on the files and forgot to buy the bullets for our shooters?

Or the time when an athlete had to run around to get his visa stamped, make it to the airport just in time to board the flight, and stay on measly allowances, while the officials accompanying them lived in five–star comfort?

Indian politicians and officials are keener to rub shoulders with Bollywood stars during gala opening and closing ceremonies and keep themselves busy arranging free passes and souvenirs to their friends and relatives.

Recently eight, that’s right, eight hockey players were cramped in room participating in a major tournament, and this while a meeting of the Indian hockey federation was in progress to discuss the future of Indian hockey.

Cricket is often blamed for all the ills that are plaguing other sports. But the least the officials can learn is how cricket is being organised and marketed, how the past cricketers are taken care of, without letting them die on streets uncared for, and how the team continues to perform, throwing up superstars and icons every now and then.

The plight of most non-cricket sports in general and athletics in particular only shows that there is a lot of catching up to do.

The single most important facility created by the Board of Control for Cricket in India is a giving pension to cricketers who have played for the country.

Eastern Europe has always been a haven for athletes taking drugs, with nations themselves being involved in promoting drug abuse. This was before the World Anti doping Agency (WADA) came into being. And our national coaches are mainly from there. Any surprise that the CWG story has ended first in corruption and then in shame.

Doping is a menace that has come to stay.

Like hacking in computers, the more firewalls and security systems that is put in place, the more hackers will find thrill in breaking into such systems that have all the security. The more drugs are banned, more and more athletes will use them under a masking agent which will cover the main drug used or abused.

Athletics, in future, will become a match between chemists wearing white coats and coming out with drugs and keeping a step ahead of the chemists working for anti doping agencies like WADA or NADA.

It is for the International Olympics Association to make sure the evil of drugs is rooted out of the system once and for all and keep a vigil it never resurfaces.

Otherwise, the Olympic movement through sports is truly over.

Photograph: Commonwealth games organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi congratulates Ashwini Akkunji and members of the gold winning India 4 x 400 women’s relay team at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on day nine of the Delhi 2010 CWG on October 12, 2010 (courtesy Getty images)