China’s problems with adulterated foods and medicines have shown up in India in an unlikely if sensational way. Our man in Delhi sends word that India’s sporting world has been consumed not for once with cricket but with eight of its top athletes failing drugs doping tests. These include three of the women’s 4×400 meters relay team that won the gold medal at the Asian Games held in Guangzhou earlier this year and at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. They are currently competing in the Asian Athletics Championships in Japan but the failed tests followed a domestic meeting in Bangalore.
All eight–six female 400 meters runners, a female shotputter and a male long-jumper–tested positive for banned steroids. It is considered India’s worst doping scandal and the story has moved off the sports page onto the front and editorial pages of India’s newspapers as it involves star names such as Ashwini Akkunji, who as well as winning Asian Games gold with the relay team won the women’s 400 meters hurdles event. Turns out, though, that the source of the banned substance was kianpi ginseng supplements the coach of the runners, a now sacked Ukranian, bought or told his runners to buy during the Guangzhou competition. He wanted the women to take the supplement to aid with protein recovery after training.
Kianpi ginseng, an enhanced version of the plant, is reputed to be especially potent. Bodybuilders often use it to put on muscle. Previously the Indian women athletes had taken regular ginseng supplements but which were sourced from the U.K. and they had never had problems with doping tests. The first ones they took since starting to consume the Chinese ginseng they failed.
The clue to the source of the steroids apparently was that the one 400 meters runner who didn’t fail her drugs test didn’t take the Chinese ginseng as she gets hers from Amway. How the kianpi ginseng got adulterated and whether steroids are a regular part of the concoction that goes into a kianpi ginseng supplement pill or whether they were a spiked batch, intentionally or not, is unclear.