The Board of Control for Cricket in India would have been tickled pink, and must have struggled hard to maintain the expressionless calm of a pin-cushion when it happened but the opening shots of the blockbuster were nothing if not spectacular. Months before the Tokyo Olympics, when testing and results take on an importance even those professing but a politely tepid interest in sport understand without much prompting, news has come through that India’s National Dope-Testing Laboratory has been stripped of its accreditation because it was not up to the mark.
It, in other words, was making a mess of its job. Before the government made the BCCI, showing up virtually in a metaphorical suit of sackcloth and ashes, sign on the dotted line for elite cricketers to be treated on a par with no-glamour practitioners of assorted farat- the-back sporting disciplines, it used to be argued by the cash-cow sport’s spokespersons that you couldn’t really rely on what the Indian laboratory would do with samples sent to it. We thought cricket was being less than honest in not admitting that the BCCI’s dope test resistance boiled down to India’s high-pay, high-visibility players’ refusal to conform to the “whereabouts” clause on the list of the things that were mandatory.
It basically meant that Virat Kohli and his peers would not deign to tell the authorites where they would be on certain days in a year for sample collection though Novak Djokovic or Leo Messi did not really find it difficult to deal with. They, and all the world’s sportspersons, major or minor, take it in their stride so they don’t find themselves thrown out of organised, competitive sport. But the government that, truth to tell, stared the BCCI down and wrung out its promise of subservience would not have known that the joke would be on it sooner rather than later due simply to the fact that it might never even have bothered to find out how the NDTL was going about its task.
Up at that level in New Delhi, it has always been about boys on the bandwagon and a rag, tag and bobtail collection of favour-seekers being bunged into any vacancy that yields some money. Maybe they also serve who pocket it for doing nothing but, as the current kerfuffle shows, there is very often a price to be paid for indulgent inefficiency. Whether, or not, Indians will see in this a blow to the country’s so-called image is perhaps less important than how, in the build-up phase to the Olympics, performances will be monitored in the absence of test results in the hands of selectors.
No one can overestimate the magnitude of the problem, given that India is one of the world’s worst dope-affected countries. If wilful negligence caused the spread of banned stuffs in the first place, simple, subsequent indifference made matters worse. How’s that?