Aug 30 - Sep 05, 2010

It is generally believed that Pakistan got international sports recognition because of victories in test cricket over India and England or Pakistan hockey gold at Rome or success of squash stars in British Amateur championships in London.

Achievements of Pakistani athletes at commonwealth games are conveniently ignored to give credit to the men of track and field for bringing Pakistan on world sports map when the new nation was trying to get itself recognised as a sporting country like many other commonwealth nations.

Sprinters Ghulam Raziq and Abdul Khaliq and hammer thrower Muhammad Iqbal who won gold medals against a tough opposition from advanced countries like Great Britain, New Zealand, and Australia are usually forgotten.

Pakistan had held a preeminent position in athletics between mid fifties to mid sixties. However, with the exit of some of the top guns of the sport Pakistan athletics suddenly became an orphan and winning a medal became a distant dream. Pakistan's medal drought was broken at Dhaka where Naseem Hamid an unknown sprinter employed by Pakistan Army won 100 meters at the SAF games. The medal starved nation went into fits of celebration and awards and money started pouring in for the daughter of a father who lived with his family in one room house in a low income suburban area.

Two institutions Pakistan Army and later Wapda kept the flame of athletics burning by employing talented athletes and providing them opportunities to appear at world stage. The competition between these two institutions became so intense at national stage that some of their team officials used all the tricks to clinch more medals than the others.

This race forced some unscrupulous officials of the two teams to encourage their athletes to adopt questionably tactics that included taking stimulants to enhance their performance. The rivalry became so intense during the last decade that taking banned substance became almost routine for the athletes of these two teams.

It was common talk in athletics circles about athletes of these teams taking drugs. Though it was common knowledge among the athletic fan but responsible officials in Athletics Federation of Pakistan or the federal sports ministry refused to take any notice of its.

However, as the national federation prepared to select team for commonwealth games, there was sudden realisation amongst the officials about the disastrous consequences that might surface if any of the athlete was tested positive for banned drugs at the New Delhi games.

Aware that athletes were taking banned the national federation carried dope tests of men and women athletes at the national championships held recently at Islamabad as part of selection process.

As expected seven athletes both men and women whose urine was sent for tests tested positive. An enquiry committee was set up to process any appeals after which these athletes were banned for two years, a punishment seen as light considering the crime committed.

According to reports three male and five female athletes have tested positive for banned substances. They are Sumaira Zahoor (Pakistan Steel 1500mn), Zara Razzaq (Pakistan Steel pole vault), Nadia Nazir (Wapda 100m, 400m), Robina Shafqat (Wapda High Jump), Shagufta Noor (Wapda 400, 800m), Muhammad Imran (Pakistan Army Javelin Throw), Asif Javed (Pakistan Army sprinter), Muhammad Wasim (Pakistan Army Shot Putter) failed to clear the tests and were duly punished.

A couple of months ago two leading women athletes Sadaf Siddiqui and Javeria Hassan tested positive and were given two year ban.

Extremely concerned with the surge of drug abuse in a number of Olympic sports, the IOC took the initiative and convened the First World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne in February 1999.

Following the proposal of the Conference, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established on November 10, 1999. According to history complied by World Anti Doping Agency, the word doping is probably derived from the Dutch word dop, the name of an alcoholic beverage made of grape skins used by Zulu warriors in order to enhance their prowess in battle. The term became current around the turn of the 20th century, originally referring to illegal drugging of racehorses. The practice of enhancing performance through foreign substances or other artificial means, however, is as old as competitive sport itself.

History of drug taking goes back centuries when ancient Greek athletes are known to have used special diets and stimulating potions to fortify themselves. Strychnine, caffeine, cocaine, and alcohol were often used by cyclists and other endurance athletes in the 19th century.

By the 1920s it had become evident that restrictions regarding drug use in sports were necessary. In 1928 the IAAF (athletics) became the first International Sport Federation (IF) to ban doping (use of stimulating substances).

Drug tests were first introduced at the Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble and at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. Most IFs introduced drug testing by the 1970s, however, the use of anabolic steroids was becoming widespread, especially in strength events, as there was no way of detecting them yet.

Anti-doping work was complicated in the 1970s and 1980s by suspicions of state-sponsored doping practices in some countries, which were substantiated by the former German Democratic Republic. The most famous doping case of the 1980s concerned Ben Johnson, the 100-metre champion who tested positive for stanozolol (anabolic steroid) at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Johnson's case focused the world's attention to the problem of doping to an unprecedented degree. In the 1990s, there was an evident connection between more effective test methods and a remarkable drop in the level of top results in some sports.

While the fight against stimulants and steroids was producing results, the main front in the anti-doping war was rapidly shifting to blood doping. Pakistan's biggest doping scandal occurred in cricket which is not an Olympic sports but after ICC signed an understanding with WADA, the events organised by the ICC fell under the WADA regime and cricketers were also be tested for the banned drugs.

Pakistan's two pacers Shoaib Akhtar and Muhammad Asif tested positive and were sent home from India where they had just landed to play in the Champions Trophy an ICC event.

The two were banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board after an enquiry committee headed by former judge Shahid Hamid found them breaching the rules.

However, later the PCB set up an independent tribunal to look into the case afresh and both Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were acquitted by the tribunal.

The three-man committee, headed by Justice Fakhruddin Ebrahim, voted two to one in favour of the acquittal. Haseeb Ahsan, former Test cricketer, and Ebrahim were in favour of the acquittal while the third member, Danish Zaheer, dissented.

"This appeal committee holds that Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif will not be deemed to have committed a doping offence. "The ban and punishment imposed by the earlier tribunal is hereby set aside as being contrary to the provision of laws."

The report also includes an 11-page note of dissent from Zaheer, the third member of the committee. He points out flaws in the testing procedures carried out by the PCB and argues, on that basis, that the whole process should be repeated, new samples provided and fresh verdicts given. Shoaib, banned for two years, and Asif, for one year had appealed after they were found guilty for testing positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone in dope tests that were internally conducted by the PCB. Cricketers were not the only sports persons who were found taking banned substances, some Pakistani hockey internationals were also caught unawares and some of them were also found to use stimulus drugs. However, they escaped punishment as they had taken the drugs through a cough syrup.