Thursday, March 10, 2016

[Editorial # 81] Maria Sharapova and a poser for sport : The Hindu

[Following editorial has been published in The Hindu on 10th March 2016. Read through it and try to answer the questions that follow. Please do not copy and paste answers. The objective of this exercise is to get you in the groove of answer-writing. Try to write in your own words. Don't hesitate to write in a bulleted-format, if you are uncomfortable in writing in paragraph form.]

Two months after the tennis world was rocked by match-fixing allegations, Maria Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion and the highest-paid female athlete, dropped a bombshell when she admitted to testing positive for the recently prohibited drug meldonium at the Australian Open. She has been provisionally suspended from March 12. The drug was added to the Prohibited List of 2016 on January 1 after being on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) monitoring list in 2015. The Agency banned the substance because of “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance”. According to WADA, a substance is placed in the prohibited list if it enhances performance, poses a threat to health, or violates the spirit of sport. In this case, by aiding the circulation of oxygen through increased blood flow, the medication (primarily meant to treat serious heart problems) enhances performance, thus violating the spirit of sport. The effect of the drug is similar to other banned substances — autogenous and allogeneic blood transfusion for extra doses of red cells and the erythropoietin hormone to produce more red blood cells to increase oxygen supply to muscles, thereby enhancing endurance. Since the drug was banned on January 1, 2016, the titles Sharapova won during her career will not be taken back. Nonetheless, by netting one of the biggest stars, the tennis anti-doping programme has at once brought to an end the debate on whether it has been soft on tennis players; two other tennis players were caught as recently as in 2013.

While some may be inclined to consider Sharapova’s an “honest mistake”, as she “did not know” that the mildronate medication that she had been taking for the last 10 years is also known as meldonium, it raises a few questions. Sharapova has been residing in Florida since 1994, and it is unclear how she gained access to the drug, as it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She is still to adequately explain the medical requirements that necessitated its consumption for a decade, as according to the company that manufactures the drug, the treatment course may “vary from four to six weeks” and it can be “repeated twice or thrice a year”. But she can seek a retroactive therapeutic use exemption by proving the merit of her case. Whether or not she enjoyed the performance-enhancing benefits of the drug during the last decade, it once again underlines the fact that scientific evidence-gathering and testing methods are slow to catch up with the increased use of performance-enhancing substances. This case should serve as a reminder for India too to clean up its act. While India may not be producing many world-class athletes and sportspersons, it ranks very high in terms of the number of cheats. According to a 2013 WADA report, with 91 dope offenders, India is ranked third, behind Russia and Turkey. Russia had 212 persons testing positive for prohibited substances, while Turkey had 155.


1. What is doping? Why do sports persons indulge in doping?

2. What are various drugs used for doping? How does it lead to performance enhancement of sports persons?

3. What is World's Anti Doping Agency? Where is it located? What all sports are covered under WADA?

4. What is meant by autogenous and allogeneic blood transfusion? What is their purpose?

5. What are Red Blood Cells? What are their functions? 

6. What is USFDA?What is its role? Is their a similar agency in India? What is its name?

7. What are the mechanisms in place to prevent doping by sports persons in India?

8. What are various ethical concerns related to doping in sports? Suggest some measures to check the same.

9. What are various issues related to sports and sportspersons? Explain with examples.


  1. Doping is an activity wherein a person takes illegal substances to enhance or improve their performance in the sport in which he/she is involved.
    There are five classes of banned drugs the most common of which are stimulants and hormones. Substances are banned if the person violate at least two of the three criteria:
    1. Enhance performance of the Athlete.
    2.Poses a threat to the health of the Athlete.
    3.Violates the spirit of the Sport.

  2. Most commonly used substances are androgenic agents such as anabolic steroids( taken in in the form of tablet or injection, at times applied in the form of gel on the skin.). These allows athletes to train more in case there is any injury or fatigues it helps to recover quickly. It also helps in building more muscles.
    side effects- Kidney damage, increased aggression, baldness, low sperm count, increased facial hair and deepened voices for women.
    Then there are Stimulants. This makes the athlete more alert also reduces the time taken to recover from fatigue this is done by increasing the heart-rate and blood flow.
    Side-effects- addictive, heart failures.
    Then there is Diuretics and masking agents. This is basically used to remove fluid from the body. This helps hiding use of other drugs and also used by boxers and in horse racing to reduce weight.
    Narcotic analgesics and cannabinoids- used to reduce fatigue and injury. At times causes more damage than the actual injury.
    Peptide hormones
    This increases strength, bulk and red blood cell count thus increases the energy of the athlete and human growth hormone which builds muscle.
    Beta blockers
    this is prescribed for heart attack prevention and high blood pressure. But this is banned in Archery and shooting because it leads to low heart rate thus preventing or reducing the trembling in the hands.
    Blood doping
    Blood taken out of the body and then later injected back to boost oxygen levels. leads to kidney and heart failure.

  3. WADA is a foundation which was created through the collective initiative which was led by the International Olympic committee.
    Was set up in Lausanne(Switzerland) on 10 Nov 1999. which was called declaration of Lausanne.
    With the primary objective to curb drug practice in sports.
    2002 the organizations headquarters have been located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. So the office in Losanne in Switzerland became the regional office of Europe. Other regional offices are located in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
    WADA came out with the World Anti-Doping Code which was adopted by more than 600 sports organization. Budgetary requirements of WADA is funded by International Olympic Committee (50%) rest by various national governments.

  4. Autologous blood transfusion is collection and re-infusion of the Patients own blood or blood components. Whereas homologous (allogenic) transfusion is collecting and infusing the blood of a compatible donor into him. then there is Heterologous blood transfusions that involve someone infusing blood and its component from a different species.

  5. Red Blood Cells are the cells in the blood which transports oxygen. Red blood cells are red because of the presence of haemoglobin in them. It is in the shape of doughnut but doesn't have a hole. This shape is also called bi-concave disc.
    The haemoglobin absorbs oxygen in the lungs. After this it travels to all other cells through blood vessels via the heart. After this they go back to the heart to be re-pumped to the lungs so that it can collect oxygen again.

  6. USFDA is a federal agency of the United States headquartered in White Oak Campus, New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland.
    FDA is responsible for promoting and protecting Public health through regulation and supervision. This is done by regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over the counter pharma drugs, Vaccines, blood transfusion, cosmetics, animal food and feed and veterinary practices.
    Is also responsible for advancing public health through speed innovations. Which will make medicines more effective and safer.
    Central Drugs Standard Control Organization is the national regulatory body for Indian pharmaceuticals and medical devices. It has a Drug Controller general of India who regulates pharma and medical devices. Controller is advised by the Drug Technical Advisory board and the Drug Consultative Committee.