KARACHI: Once again the use of performance-enhancing drugs has struck the country as four leading bodybuilders of the country — two of them participants of South Asian Games — died within eighteen days.
But as in the previous cases the federal and the provincial sports authorities have failed to do anything about it.
Humayun Khurram had won a gold medal in South Asian Bodybuilding Championship and Hamid Ali, nicknamed Ustad Gujju, had claimed a bronze medal.
Informed sources said that all of them had died due to use of locally-made steroids which caused multiple complications, including heart failure.
A few years ago Pakistan’s fastest woman sprinter Mobin Akhtar, who had won the national 100 metres women race twice, died in her house in mysterious circumstances.
The Pakistan Athletics Federation (PAF) in 2010 had banned eight leading athletes, including women, as they were found using performance-enhancing drugs.
Pakistan’s most famous athletics coach and trainer Muhammad Talib said the situation was horrifying and warned the sports authorities to wake up before it got worse. “Pakistan’s future in the sports world would be bleak if the use of performance-enhancing drugs was not controlled,” he said.
Talib said it was time that all the leading players of the country in all disciplines were tested so that the level of the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs could be ascertained and the practice stopped.
He suggested that federal government should test all the participants in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Games in Islamabad.
“A comprehensive plan is required to root out this disease from our sports,” he said.
Coaches and officials allegedly encourage athletes to use these drugs to win competitions.
Sources told ‘The News’ that the problem has reached an alarming point and sooner, rather than later, it would surface as one of the biggest sports scandals in the country.
Imran Khan, a reputed and qualified national athletics coach, disclosed that a majority of Pakistani athletes, including weightlifters and bodybuilders, competing in district, provincial and national competitions take anabolic steroids to improve their performances so that they can earn departmental promotions.
A former decathlon champion, Imran is of the view that in a number of cases, athletes using drugs do not know that they are banned substances.
Imran, who is one of three Pakistani coaches with a level five degree in athletics coaching from Singapore, said that some coaches use performance-enhancing drugs without consulting any doctors. “Due to the lack of education, the athletes get involved in use of anabolic substances and steroids and when caught, face severe punishments,” he said.
“Since most of them come from rural areas, they are unaware of the hazards of doping.
“During any national athletics events, dozens of empty packets of these substances are found in the athletes’ rooms,” he said.
Imran said that it was time PSB and POA took notice of this and started an awareness campaign through workshops, meetings and other means.
“You cannot curb this menace by handing bans. What you need is a comprehensive campaign to minimise it,” he said. “Athletes and coaches need to know what is banned and what is not,” he said.
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