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Times of India
06 July 2011
By, Gaurav Kanthwal
Patiala, India

DRUG BUFFET: A chemist store outside the reputed National Institute of Sports in Patiala that freely sells banned substances over the counter, cheaply and without prescription DRUG BUFFET: A chemist store outside the reputed National Institute of Sports in Patiala that freely sells banned substances over the counter, cheaply and without prescription
"Immediate results or get your money back." That’s the sales pitch at chemist stores just outside the National Institute of Sports (NIS). You don’t need a prescription, nor are eyebrows raised when you purchase banned steroids over the counter right at the doorstep of India’s premier sports training institute. And if you ask for a receipt, you’ll get it.

That’s just how brazen doping has become in Indian athletics. Even a week after the biggest doping scandal has broken, no one is raising questions about these "strategically-situated" drug stores, indicating that officialdom doesn’t really believe that dope and sports don’t mix.

When TOI reached Patiala on Tuesday, schedule ‘H’ steroid Stanolozol was still being openly sold for as cheap as Rs 30 for a strip of 10 capsules. All you have to do is ask for it by its brand name, Neurabol. Schedule ‘H’ drugs, by law, can’t be purchased without a prescription but no one gives a damn.

"Ek baar use kar ke dekho... aap baar baar aaoge hamare paas (Just use it once, you’ll come to us again and again)," assures the man behind the counter at Preet Medical Store, a chemist and druggist store near Sews Singh Thikriwala Statue, the commercial district next door to NIS.

"We have been selling it for many years. There has never been a complaint," he adds with a seasoned flourish. "You will come back again for this drug."

Mandeep Kaur, the first of the high-profile athletes who tested positive after an out of competition check last week, blamed contaminated food supplements procured from these chemists outside NIS.

But while Mandeep merely mentioned food supplements, what TOI discovered was the sheer ease with which steroids could be obtained. A Nandrolone-Decanoate injection, under the brand name of Deca Duraboline (1 ml), is available for Rs 177 with a valid bill.

Once he gets the drift, the chemist, instead of asking for a prescription or even a casual informal query, proudly spreads out the fare, displaying performance-enhancing drugs one after the other on the counter. Each new exhibit offers better results than the previous one.

When asked for Menabol (containing Stanozolol), Jai Maa Medicos, plying their trade on Lower Mall Patiala, even suggests an alternative – Neurabol – for better results. "Athletes and sportspersons prefer Neurabol over Menabol. Though they are one and the same thing, Neurabol is the preferred drug," a shop employee says, seemingly oblivious to the storm kicked up by doping.

In Patiala’s upmarket area near Rajindra Hospital, some chemists were more circumspect when TOI came looking to purchase over- the-counter steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. But in and around NIS, it is clear an athlete on the lookout for his or her fix doesn’t have to cross too many hurdles.

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