Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said doping scandals in the country are "very disturbing" and India should strive to become a cleaner sporting nation not just by catching the cheats but also educating the ones who fail because of sheer ignorance. Rijiju said there is a need to promote a culture of clean sports in India, so that the image of the country is not tarnished when athletes are caught for doping abroad.
"I am not saying all dope offenders took prohibited substances unintentionally, some take intentionally but there are others who take them without knowing the contents of drugs," he said.
"That's why there is the need to spread awareness about clean sports, about being careful in what you take in as supplements, etc. Besides conducting an aggressive campaign against intentional doping, there is also a need to impart awareness to those who don't have intentions to cheat but found doping because of lack of knowledge," he added.
Rijiju was speaking at a function to announce actor Suniel Shetty as brand ambassador of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). His remarks assume significance as Tokyo Olympics is less than eight months away and a huge number of doping offences have been reported this year. "We don't want our athletes competing outside the country and test positive for prohibited substances. That sullies the image of our country, besides bringing shame to the athletes themselves and their families," the minister said. More than 150 athletes have failed dope tests this year though bodybuilders make up more than one-third of this list.
"We have to nurture a culture of clean sports in this country. Scandals in sports (through doping) is very disturbing. No doubt, we want India to become a sporting power but we cannot allow these kind of things (doping) to happen. Clean sports is an absolute necessity," he said.
Rijiju admitted that in many instances, coaches and doctors are the culprits as they guide athletes wrongly. "This (wrong guidance) should not happen and I have seen many such athletes ruining their careers," he said. Rijiju said Shetty has agreed to be brand ambassador of the NADA on honorary basis.
NADA Director General Navin Agarwal said the anti-doping watchdog is not meant only for handing down punishments to dope offenders but also to make them aware about inadvertent usage of prohibited substances. "Many athletes use drugs of wrong companies, wrong drugs and supplements but they otherwise do not want to dope but still are caught for doping. So, we want to spread awareness to reach to each and every athlete of this country," he said. Shetty advised the athletes not to resort to shortcuts to achieve fame, saying "slow and steady success builds character".
"I want to do this campaign at school level. I want to tell children that when we achieved success in sports it has to be through pure means. We have to show the world that India is a country which is pure," said the 59-year-old actor. "I feel many of our coaches at grassroots level are not trained adequately to guide children in a proper way," he added.
NADA chose Shetty as its anti-doping brand ambassador instead of a former or current athlete and the actor said he will do his best to contribute to the campaign of clean sports in the country. "I am as fit as any athlete. I follow sports and am aware of what is happening in the country's sports. I am overwhelmed at this gesture of the NADA and sports ministry and I will do my best to make a contribution," he said.