Although Bhutan records no incident of its athletes doping, the Bhutan Anti-Doping Committee (BADC) said that Bhutanese athletes are at risk of unintentional (inadvertent) doping.

Inadvertent doping occurs when an athlete, who is on medication or is taking supplement, is found to be under the influence of prohibited substance unintentionally. Testing positive for a drug, even if unintentionally would lead to doping violations and sanctions.

Director at BADC, Nima Gyeltshen said that athletes are exposed to the risk of unintentional doping given the kind of sports culture and celebrations the country practices. “We have a habit of celebrating sports achievements by going to bars and clubs. If we conduct a doping test, the result would be positive. This is because of lack of awareness among athletes of doping,” he said.

He said that the result of unintentional doping according to world anti-doping code has no excuse. “The sanctions would be applied. Athletes should be responsible for medication and type of substance they use.”

BADC conducted awareness and education programme on doping and anti-doping rules during its annual meeting with national sports federations, representatives from athletes and women commissions in Thimphu on September 25.

Officials from BADC sensitised representatives on common incidents and practices that would lead to unintentional doping. Nima Gyeltshen said an athlete should be aware of the prohibited substance. “There are certain medicines and injury treatment that would include prohibited substance. An athlete should inform doctors to avoid using prohibited substance during medication,” he said.

Some supplements that athletes use would contain prohibited substance, he said. Passive smoking marijuana and consumption of bread, pork, and beef contaminated with steroids used as additional animal feed would also result in testing positive. “Certain herbal and indigenous medicine of unknown chemical composition would also lead to unintentional doping.”

BADC conducted doping test in selected sports like football, basketball and athletic competitions last year. The test collected 13 samples and the results were negative. The samples collected were sent to World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), accredited laboratory. A doping test of a sample cost USD 250. The test was conducted with support from WADA.

President of Bhutan Karate Association, Ugyen Wangchuk said that the time has come for Bhutan to implement the test. “Although we don’t have major doping incidents, we have youth getting into substance abuse,” he said. “Anti-doping isn’t only about the sanctions. It is also about taking care of health and upholding the spirit of sports. It would protect the name of athletes, federations and the country.”

BADC found the need to create awareness and educate athletes on anti-doping because of the increasing numbers of local tournaments, tournaments becoming  competitive and more athletes taking part in regional competitions.

Nima Gyeltshen said that anti-doping is about protecting the health of an athlete. Doping in long run causes health implications and loss of organs. It is also about maintaining a level playing field and upholding the integrity of sports.  “Athletic career in the country is not professional and the doping policies are taken lightly,” he said.

The doping committee does not yet have an independent authority to conduct its programmes effectively, said officials.

The day-long awareness and education programme also talked about localising the doping rules and regulations to suit the level of competition and seasonal athletic career.