The sample collection drive of cricketers participating in the IPL is yet to begin in the desert land as the country’s anti-doping watchdog awaits clearance from the central government authorities for its dope control officers (DCOs) to travel to the UAE.
TOI has reliably learned that the NADA’s team of DCOs, which was supposed to fly out to the UAE in the second week of September, hasn’t yet left the Indian shores pending approval from the ministry of foreign affairs. The IPL is being played across three venues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and will conclude on November 10. The first batch of DCOs were originally scheduled to travel on September 12.
With the tournament entering its fourth week on Friday, the NADA has been looking to obtain the required approval from authorities at the earliest to send its DCOs to either of the two destinations -Dubai or Sharjah – preferably by next week. However, as things stand, the anti-doping officials aren’t too optimistic about clearances arriving soon given the pandemic situation in the country and the stringent health and safety protocols put in place by the UAE’s local authorities. There stands a possibility that the DCOs’ trips might not fructify at all.
NADA had planned to send its three teams of DCOs in different batches for the tournament, consisting of a lead DCO from its Delhi headquarters, two assistant DCOs and two local chaperones provided by the UAE’s anti-doping agency (NADO). However, the official leading the first batch could be seen cooling his heels at the NADA office.
The other problem was the list of DCOs compiled from different states and subsequently submitted to the authorities for their approval. According to sources, some of the local DCOs named in the list were engaged in covid-19 duty at some point of time in government hospitals of their respective states. Sources informed that the permission hasn’t come for these local state DCOs as the authorities are apprehensive about their state of health. A DCO is a registered medical practitioner (MBBS, science graduate) with the knowledge of anti-doping operations. DCOs are hired on contractual basis by the NADA.
Sources also told that the NADA had submitted the proposal for IPL dope testing to the sports ministry well before the start of the tournament and the ministry, in turn, had forwarded it to the concerned authorities in the government. However, the NADA is still waiting to hear from the sports ministry.
Another problem facing the NADA’s DCOs are entering the bio-secure bubble created by the Indian cricket board (BCCI) in the middle of the tournament as the Board officials aren’t in favour of extending such courtesy. Also, both Dubai and Sharjah have a policy of seven-day mandatory quarantine for visitors, while Abu Dhabi’s health authorities have mandated a much longer 15-day quarantine for foreigners arriving in the city.
Sources also said that the NADA and BCCI are still negotiating on the expense part and the cost of getting the samples tested at a foreign lab. It’s been learned that the NADA has entered into a fresh contract with Germany’s Cologne lab, a Wada-accredited laboratory, for the testing of cricketers’ samples. Earlier, the NADA had decided to send the samples to Spain’s Barcelona laboratory because the UAE’s NADO was contracted with the Catalonian lab.
NADA, in collaboration with the UAE’s NADO, has set up a total of five ‘Dope Control Stations’ (DCS) in the UAE for carrying out its anti-doping activities – one DCS each at the three competition venues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and one such centre at each of the two designated training venues – ICC Academy in Dubai and Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Because of the high cost involved, the NADA had decided to conduct only 20 in-competition testing of cricketers (both Indian and foreigners) and another 30 out-of-competition testing.