BCCI-Ministry cold war: Issues over South Africa A tour, dope tests

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The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in two separate matters has taken the Board of Control for Cricket in India to the task. While one can jeopardise South Africa A and Women’s team tours of India, the other has challenged the cricket board’s authority and competence for anti-doping tests.

Besides, being taken to task on its anti-doping set-up by the Sports Ministry, the BCCI has also not yet received the mandatory permissions for South Africa A and Women’s team tours of India.

Due to the delay in mandatory permissions, South Africa A and Women team’s upcoming tours to India in late August and September respectively have hit a roadblock as the BCCI is yet to get the mandatory clearance letter from the sports ministry required for visiting sides, reports PTI.

Normally, the BCCI intimates the sports ministry about the itinerary of the visiting teams and gets a routine clearance which helps the visiting sides to carry out their visa processes smoothly. The clearance letter normally comes between 30 and 45 days.

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While the BCCI claimed that it had made the application in March and waiting for the clearance letter, a sports ministry official said it is yet to get it.  “The application for the clearance was moved to the sports ministry back in March. There has never been such a delay on their part. The A series and women’s series start late August and early September,” a BCCI official privy to the developments told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

“The clearance letter from the ministry is sent to the Indian embassy in South Africa and it helps in the visa process. This delay is turning out to be a logistical nightmare. We don’t know what’s the reason for this delay,” the official added.

However, when contacted, a source in the ministry said that they are “unaware of any communication from the BCCI“.

“Rather than going to the media, the BCCI officials should have come to the ministry if they had an issue,” a sports ministry official said.

“One thing should be clear. The BCCI has to approach the ministry for any pending issue and it’s never the other way round,” the official stated.

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On the dope test issue, the ministry has reportedly said that the BCCI did not have the right to conduct the tests on players as it is not authorised by the government or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

National daily Indian Express has reported that the Sports Ministry in a letter to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri has stated that its anti-doping programme lacked robustness and also mentioned conflict of interest since the BCCI does the testing itself and hands out punishment accordingly.

The letter has reportedly been sent much before BCCI has recently handed Prithvi Shaw a one-year ban for testing positive for a banned substance. BCCI’s entire conduct in the case of test, report and ban on Shaw is being questioned.

However, a group in the board has opined that the letter is aimed at the Ministry’s bigger game plan of compelling BCCI to come under the ambit of National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), the World Anti-Doping Agency-affiliated body in the country.

In the letter to Johri, the Sports Ministry said that the board’s anti-doping programme lacked robustness and hinted at a conflict of interest since the BCCI itself tests and hands out punishment to its players.

The Ministry has also said that the BCCI cannot conduct dope tests on players as it is not authorised by the Government or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). “Article 5.2 of WADA Code provides for sampling of athletes only by an Anti-Doping Organisation with testing authority. It is a matter of fact that BCCI is neither an anti-doping organisation with testing authority under WADA Code nor it can acquire such a status,” states the letter dated June 26.

The BCCI had earlier cited flaws in the NADA’s procedures as one of the reasons for not complying with its rules. The board had also contended that since it was not a government-funded national federation, it is not subject to NADA’s jurisdiction, and claimed to have a “robust mechanism to ensure Indian cricket is free from doping”.

The claim was dismissed by the “The claim of BCCI having a robust mechanism to ensure Indian cricket is clean and free from doping is not based on facts,” the letter said. “In 2018, 215 samples were sent by BCCI to National Dope Testing Laboratory, India, for testing. Of these, 5 tested positive. There is no information as to how these athletes who tested positive have been dealt with,” Indian Express has quoted the text from the Ministry letter.

The government has also categorically told the board that cricketers will not be treated differently to other athletes who comply with strict anti-doping rules.

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