The issue surrounding the use of banned substances and steroids has raised its head again within Sri Lanka’s sports sphere. Subsequent to Olympic Silver medalist Susanthika Jayasinghe being accused of using performance enhancer Nandrolone, during the world championship in 1997 many Sri Lankan athletes have fallen from grace. Despite Jayasinghe being cleared during the time, many Sri Lankan sports stars during the past year have been charged and found guilty of offences related to performance enhancing drugs.
Sri Lanka’s top sporting prodigies have fallen within the ambit of “Doping” which has either resulted in them being fined, suspended or worse, stripped of their winnings. Upul Tharanga the dashing Sri Lankan opener was suspended for three months, after he was found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs during the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup. Tharanga was tested positive and thereby banned for three months by the ICC. The issue resulted in an ensuing political drama with the country’s opposition accusing the President’s personal physician Eliyantha White of treating Tharanga.
The case of Manju Wanniarachi, Sri Lanka’s Commonwealth Gold Medalist could be regarded as the initial point of this new wave. Wanniarachi, the country’s leading boxer at the Commonwealth games held in Delhi was stripped of his gold medal on May 8, 2011, after being tested positive for the drug Nandrolone. The issue was subsequently swept away with the Sports Ministry agreeing with the Commonwealth Games directive. The athlete, despite having asserted his innocence did not appeal, some believe due to reasons relating to Sri Lanka’s Commonwealth Games bid for 2018.Chinthana Vidanage, also, a Commonwealth Gold medalist at the 2006 Games, held in Australia, was found guilty and banned for four years for using methylhexanamine. Vidanage was found guilty of “doping’ during the Asian Weightlifting championship held in China in April this year.
The case extends to Rugby. Despite having its own case of administrative turmoil and heavy underperformance the Lankan ruggerites have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. The country’s Star Full back Saliya Kumara, Former Peterite Captain Keith Gurusinghe and Former Antonian Swarnathilake were all banned from the sport due to their use of performance enhancers. Previously Kasun De Silva was found guilty of smoking cannabis which was also a banned substance.
All of this brings us to the question as to why, despite repeated occurrences, Sri Lanka’s star athletes fall prey, is it through either ignorance or insolence? What is clear is that most athletes appear not to know the classifications of legal and illegal substances. The ruggerites for instance, according to sources, did not have a clue about the substance jack3D, its effects and after effects.
The World Doping Governing Body (WADA) issues a circular on the January 1, every year which sets out clear instructions to all sportsmen and women. The circular includes and excludes drugs and enhancers each year. The fact of the matter is that the circular contains scientific jargon which an athlete would find difficult to comprehend.
The authorities have time and again resorted to playing the blame game. The administrators blame the physicians, the sportsmen blame the administrators and the rest of the country blames the Sports Ministry.
What is clear is at the end of the day it is the image of the country that is at stake. The sportsmen and women of any country are considered ambassadors of their nation. It is not themselves but their country that they represent. Therefore is it not the responsibility of those governing to take concrete and stringent measure that ensures a doping free “Sri Lanka Sports”.
The Sports medicine unit of the country no doubt has to take the brunt of the blame. The unit headed by Dr. Geethanjana Mendis has left many questions unanswered with regard to the measures taken. The sportsmen and women together with the governing bodies are yet to know the steps taken by the country’s leading authority to prevent indulgence in doping.
Meanwhile the public watches on with disappointment, as year after year, our sporting stars fall prey to doping allegations and are stripped of their hard earned glory.
Dr. Priyanga De Zoysa – Sports Psychologist, Sports Medicine Physician and Sri Lanka’s only doping control coordinator for FIFA
There is a comprehensive list of banned substances published by the World Anti Doping Association. The International Olympic Committee and most sports governing bodies adhere to this list. The list very clearly spells out the substances that one can and can’t take during competition. All governing bodies and subsequently the local authorities are notified about this list.
What is clear is that it is the lack of knowledge, which is the primary reason for the use of these substances. The sportsmen and the authorities alike, lack understanding with the laws and the substances that fall under these laws. Seldom does a sportsman use a substance unknowingly.
What can be done to prevent this occurrence is complete awareness creation. During my time as the physician of the national football team there was never an instance when a member of the team was accused of doping. If players are informed about the legality and the illegality of the substances and they are constantly educated there is no reason for the players to take these substances.
Mohthilal Jayathilake – One of the Country’s leading Sports trainers and Former director of physical education at the Peradeniya University
The main problem is that all concerned individuals and associations don’t have knowledge of the literature. We have to develop knowledge and awareness among all parties who include sportspersons, physicians, governing bodies and trainers. At the beginning of each year WADA sends out the list of drugs that are banned, each year there are some additions and subtractions to the list. For example, I think many athletes knew about the list for 2010 but the subsequent changes that were in the 2011 list was not known.
What is clear is that there is a lack of awareness. Many people resort to blaming each other but what needs to be done is educating the youth. At the end of the day it is not the administration that will have to pay the ultimate price, but the sportsmen whose years of hardwork is just washed away.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake – JVP parliamentarian
There are some sportsperson who use these substances unknowingly. Awareness should be created among the sportsmen with regard to the positive and negative effects of them. But what is worrying is the double standards of the authorities regulating sports. For example in the case of Manju Wanniarachchi the CID was tasked with apprehending a doctor from Kurunegala. The Doctor was accused of prescribing Manju with performance enhancing drugs. But in contrast the case of Upul Tharanga was swept under the carpet. No doctor was questioned and nothing was done. The poor player who unknowingly took the drugs was banned for three months and that was all there was to it.
The responsibility of all this has to be taken by the authorities. There is a sports medicine unit that ought to regulate and overlook all these aspects but it seems to be doing nothing. The only thing they seem to be doing well, is playing politics and doing what those in power want them to do.
What all of this clearly shows is the lack of discipline and moral levels of the country. It can’t be confined to sports. A sport just showcases one aspect of the dwindling discipline and moral values. There needs to a comprehensive social change if we are to make headway.