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BCCI’s doping stance: What’s there to gain?

It recently emerged that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has refused to adopt the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) code. An integral part of this position is the BCCI’s support of its top players, who are claiming that the Wada code violates their privacy amongst other reasons. The BCCI has also said that cricket suffers little threat from the use of banned performance-enhancing substances because cricket is a game of skill and not power.

Have they been watching the same game? Fast bowlers require some muscle to keep the ball around the batsman’s nose. Goliaths such as Matthew Hayden and Chris Gayle show that there is indeed space for power cricketers, to use the same words David Lloyd uttered when describing the South African team touring England last year (he might have been implying they were fat, but you never know). Gordon Farquhar and cricket historian Boria Majumdar both contributed thought-provoking pieces to the BBC’s online service on the subject. Farquhar wonders if the Indians are choosing to engage in a game of self-interest, while Majumdar believes that if the BCCI and the Indian players aren’t careful, they run the risk of alienating themselves from the public and wider cricket community.

Both men emphasise the importance of cricket in India, where the sport is unmatched for competition and money. The leading players are role models to aspiring players and spectators, and adopting their current attitude against doping is a show of poor judgement. Granted, the Indian players aren’t the only people who have complained about the “intrusive” nature of the Wada code. The code stipulates that for at least one hour every day, players (from any sport) must let Wada know where they are. Leading sportsmen such as Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Usain Bolt might have their reservations about the code, but when the flint ignites the gas, they conform to Wada’s code.

The ICC became a signatory of the Wada code in 2006, and all other Test nations have also adopted the code as a result. The BCCI reportedly intends on making a presentation to the ICC that all their members break rank with the Wada code and go about organising themselves in relation to anti-doping. All this is happening while cricket wants to be an Olympic sport (T20 anyway)? The only way a sport can be considered for the Olympics is through the adoption of the Wada code.

Does the BCCI’s plan, in the words of Farquhar, appear to be an attempt to “pacify” the leading 11 Indian players? With players earning more than ever, and their influence growing in relation to those earnings, doesn’t it seem a case of the tail wagging the dog with the Indian players refusing to sign up? It certainly looks like, and with the issue putting the BCCI in direct opposition to the ICC, a clash looks inevitable. Will the BCCI, with all its money and power, defeat the ICC or will it be the other way round? At the moment, the situation appears to be arrested in a state of detente, with neither side appearing to blink.

Supposedly, if the BCCI refuses to sign the Wada code for a third time, they will subsequently be sanctioned from all international competition. Though I certainly don’t admit to being an authority on doping, it really is a no brainer. The longer India stays out of the Wada circle the dodgier by implication its players and administrators appear to be. India will eventually agree to the Wada code, because any other option will just look morbidly suspicious. The BCCI may be the bullies of the international cricket, but it is impossible to be a bully when there isn’t anybody around whose ass can be kicked. Does the BCCI want to be that one lonely kid on an empty playground? I don’t think so since it also makes economic sense to sign up with Wada, and that to us, not entirely familiar with the ways of Indian cricket, appears to usually be the deal maker. It’s about the dollars and sense, and if the BCCI catch a whiff the gravy train moving elsewhere, they will be very willing to play ball … on their own court mind you.