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27 Aug 2019

BCCI’s Anti Doping Saga

After years of defiance, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) seems to have finally caved in by agreeing to come under the ambit of National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to avoid isolating itself from the global sports fraternity. Going forward, (subject to official confirmation) like any other athletes of other sports federations, Indian cricket players would be subject to World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) Anti-Doping Code. Though there has been no official confirmation to that effect from either side, it seems that there is no way out for BCCI anymore.

All this while, BCCI has been using the services of Sweden based International Dope Testing Management (IDTM) for collection and National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) for testing the samples under its anti-doping process. However, it was Prithvi Shaw’s recent failed dope test which perhaps acted as the last nail to the coffin and cornered BCCI. In another blow to the BCCI’s entire anti-doping process, WADA has suspended[1] NDTL for six months from testing the samples therefore NADA has to use another WADA approved laboratory for the time being.


The recent cases of three Cricketers[2] getting banned by BCCI for use of prohibited substances raised the issue of anti-doping in Indian Cricket. However, it was 19-year-old cricketer Prithvi Shaw’s case whose matter made the headlines and questions about BCCI’s anti-doping system started making the rounds once again. Handling of this case baffled everyone including Committee of Administrators (CoA) and Sports Ministry. In this case, the urine samples collected during February 2019 were found to contain Terbutaline, a substance that is banned under the WADA Prohibited List of substances[3]. On July 16, 2019, Prithvi Shaw was provisionally suspended and subsequently the final ruling[4] that came on July 20, 2019 banned him for eight months retrospectively. However, since BCCI’s rules require the athlete to serve one half of the period of ineligibility post-suspension order hence Prithvi Shaw‘s eight months ban started 4 months prior to 16th July 2019 i.e. from March 16, 2019 and would continue for the balance period of four months i.e. until November 15, 2019[5].

Questions were raised when the player was allowed to participate in the IPL (during April & May 2019 even after the results were positive) and also allowed to use the facilities of the National Cricket Academy. As per BCCI’s timeline[6] of the matter which came after the intervention of CoA, it was evident that the anti-doping system lacked merit. In addition, the Sports Ministry’s constant pressure on BCCI, latest being a fresh mandate[7] issued to WADA asking it to pressurize BCCI through ICC, a signatory to WADA, seems to have decided the fate of BCCI’s anti-doping System.  


It is unclear why BCCI chose to abstain from widely accepted and approved Anti-doping agency NADA/WADA all this while even though it has been using another agency (IDTM) to carry out the anti-doping test. The reasons cited by some of the BCCI officials and newspaper reports about the “whereabouts” clause sounds flimsy. Indian Cricketers seem to have been opposing this clause citing the potential security issues owing to their celebrity status. However, it is hard to believe that BCCI had risked its reputation over players’ privacy which perhaps did not sound like a genuine issue.

Further, the revised version of the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information (ISSPPPI) published in June 2018[8] nullifies this argument. Also, since 2017, it seems BCCI has been consistently uploading the whereabouts of centrally contracted players on WADA’s Anti-Doping Administrative & Management Systems (ADAMS)[9]. It may also be pertinent to mention that none of the star athletes in the world whether from football, tennis or any other sport have ever had a problem or raised a concern about the whereabouts clause but Indian cricketers.  All these reasons make BCCI’s concern over Player’s privacy infructuous. 


ICC became a signatory to WADA in 2006 and adopted its Anti-Doping Code[10]. Post-2015 version of the Code, ICC had to mandatorily implement its provisions. Therefore, it became inevitable for its members to avoid WADA’s Anti-Doping Code. Since ICC could not convince BCCI all this while to comply with the Code, it remained a non-complaint and was running the risk of facing sanctions as per Article 11 of WADA’s International Standard for Code Compliance[11]. WADA seems to have continued sending reminders to ICC, last one being in July 2019 urging them to implement the Code and was given a final deadline of October 2019 to settle the dispute between BCCI and NADA[12]. Though ICC tournaments would not have been affected even if the ICC had lost WADA’s affiliation, however, it would have surely dented its chance of getting Cricket included at the Olympics in 2028 and also in the next Commonwealth games for which ICC has been lobbying for years.


WADA has its affiliate National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) [13] [14] in almost every country which implements and run its anti-doping program. ICC has 12 permanent members and all the members appear to be WADA compliant and use WADA’s national affiliates to run their respective Anti-Doping programs. From Cricket Australia[15] to the English Cricket Board[16], New Zealand Cricket[17], Cricket South Africa[18], Sri Lanka Cricket[19], Cricket West Indies[20] and even Afghanistan Cricket Board[21] appear to be WADA complaint about their Anti-Doping Code.


The question arises, whether Prithvi Shaw’s case could have been avoided or handled better and whether BCCI could have saved itself from the embarrassment had it been under NADA? As one of the key activities of WADA includes providing continuous education to athletes, awareness coupled with a strong deterrent mechanism could have prevented this incident. Although the BCCI did have a robust anti-doping system in place, it should have comprehended that adhering to global practices was unavoidable.

Now when the final confirmation comes from BCCI and NADA about their affiliation, BCCI needs to adopt WADA’s Anti-Doping Code and amend its Anti-Doping Rules as per the template[22] to confirm its compliance. Athletes need to adhere to strict and standard guidelines to ensure fair sport across the globe. Avoiding a much-needed measure by citing celebrity status and security reasons undermines the sanctity of competition and sets a bad precedent for enthusiasts and future participants.

(Co-Author: Archana Bhageerathi)


[1] https://www.wada-ama.org/en/media/news/2019-08/wada-suspends-accreditation-of-new-delhi-laboratory

[2] http://www.bcci.tv/news/2019/press-releases/18273/anti-doping-rule-violations-during-the-bcci-domestic-season-2018-19

[3] https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/wada_2019_english_prohibited_list.pdf

[4] http://relaunch-live.s3.amazonaws.com/cms/documents/5d403cb218b18-Decision%20of%20BCCI%20in%20the%20ADRV%20Case%20of%20Prithvi%20Shaw.pdf

[5] http://www.bcci.tv/news/2019/press-releases/18273/anti-doping-rule-violations-during-the-bcci-domestic-season-2018-19

[6] http://relaunch-live.s3.amazonaws.com/cms/documents/5d4bb5921cd5d-Timelines%20in%20Mr.%20Prithvi%20Shaw%20ADRV%20Case%20.pdf

[7] http://sportslounge.co.in/sports-ministry-to-wada-make-bcci-fall-in-line-with-nada-guidelines/

[8] https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/ispppi-_final_-_en.pdf

[9] https://www.indiatoday.in/sports/cricket/story/indian-cricketers-providing-whereabouts-details-to-wada-since-2017-1474274-2019-03-09

[10] https://www.icc-cricket.com/about/integrity/anti-doping/code

[11] https://www.wada-ama.org/en/questions-answers/compliance-monitoring

[12] https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/wada-threatens-icc-with-anti-doping-compliance-committee-intervention-over-bcci-nada-stand-off/317414

[13] https://www.wada-ama.org/en/what-we-do/the-code/code-signatories#GovernmentFundedOrganizations

[14] https://www.wada-ama.org/en/what-we-do/the-code/code-signatories#GovernmentFundedOrganizations

[15] https://www.foxmandal.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/FINAL-CA-AntiDoping-Code-Season-201718.pdf

[16] https://www.ecb.co.uk/governance/anti-doping

[17] https://drugfreesport.org.nz/athletes-currently-serving-bans-due-to-anti-doping-offences

[18] http://saca.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/CSA-Anti-Doping-Rules.pdf

[19] http://www.srilankacricket.lk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/SLADA-Anti-Doping-Rules.pdf

[20] https://www.windiescricket.com/cricket-west-indies/cwi-anti-doping-rules-and-regulations/

[21] https://cricket.af/public/anti/ACB_Anti_Doping_Rules.pdf

[22] https://icc-static-files.s3.amazonaws.com/ICC/document/2017/03/06/a6a222d3-6534-43d0-ac7d-81753e779c76/The-National-Cricket-Federation-s-AD-rules-template-Dec16.pdf


Image Credits: Alessandro Bogliari



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