Jump to content


Guest SAdmin

Recommended Posts

Guest SAdmin

Posted on Thu, Mar. 03, 2005

Steroids collide with traditional Punjabi sport


By Sean Webby and Matthai Chakko Kuruvila

Mercury News

Coming home after a grueling winter season of Kabaddi matches in East

India, Kuljeet Singh arrived at San Francisco International Airport two

weeks ago with a suitcase full of trophies, neatly folded designer jeans and

a stash of syringes and steroids in his shoes.

He got as far as customs.

As the Balco scandal has exposed, this is the steroid era in sports.

Beyond baseball and the Olympics, it has even infiltrated this ancient sport

rooted in tradition and simplicity, played by barefooted men grappling in

grass and dirt circles from Punjab to parks in San Jose.

Singh's arrest sent a shudder through the close-knit local world of

Kabaddi enthusiasts and further. Kabaddi is more than just a growing Punjabi

sport that has elements of wrestling and rugby. It is a bridge of pride to

an ancient culture, used to bring together the far-flung community and to

keep young American-born Sikhs from losing their cultural tradition.

Many say steroids defile that tradition.

``Steroids are quite prevalent in Kabaddi,'' said Daniel Igali, an

Olympic wrestling gold medalist from Canada who is known as ``The Kabaddi

Kid'' because of his success in his adopted sport. ``It's so sad. This is

not just a sport, it is part of their culture. Many of the young people just

can't see the harm.''

Out on bail and sitting in his parents' home in Petaluma, Singh, 23,

told the Mercury News he used steroids regularly during trips to India. He

does not see the harm in the drugs he brought home, nor did he know they

were illegal. Most of the players he saw in India used steroids, he said.

``If I knew, I would not have brought them here, never,'' he said,

referring a reporter to a document he said was an Indian doctor's

prescription for the anabolic steroids. ``I didn't know. I thought they were


Yet he told customs officials that the syringes, liquid-filled bottles

and tablets were vitamins and pain-killers, according to court documents. He

later refused to speak to arresting officers, who Googled the names of the

drugs to find that many of them were potent illegal steroids.

There was no subterfuge, said his lawyer, Jeffrey Hayden. This was a

Punjabi immigrant struggling with the English language.

Ignorance is no excuse, San Mateo County prosecutor Sheryl Wolcott


``It's his responsibility to know what the laws are, especially the

drug laws, when he is flying into a country,'' Wolcott said.

The small family that came to the United States two years ago is

terrified at the thought that Singh could spend up to three years in prison

or be deported.

His father, Joga Singh, 57, said he needs his son, who sometimes helps

him work at a 7-Eleven in Novato. Then he said that he, too, was a Kabaddi

player -- ``a very good raider'' -- and showed off the scars on his leg. And

look at these trophies, Joga said, pointing to his son's golden statuettes,

placed with honor atop the television, next to a photo of a bare-chested

Kuljeet flexing his biceps.

The arrest worried Satmangal Singh, the coach of one of Kuljeet's

teams near Fresno.

``Here, in baseball, they have all these problems,'' Satmangal Singh

said. ``He doesn't know these things. In India, everybody uses. I told him,

`Man, don't do this. Don't use anything. Don't even drink. You want to stay

here? Your mom was crying. Your parents depend on you.' ''

Gulu Ezekiel, a veteran Indian sports journalist based in Delhi, said

Singh's story is not surprising.

``It is common knowledge that steroid use is rampant in Indian

sport,'' Ezekiel wrote in an e-mail. ``In that respect I don't see how

Kabaddi is any different.''

The news of Singh's Feb. 14 arrest traveled quickly among local

Kabaddi organizers, who are gearing up for this year's season. They said

using performance-enhancing drugs defiled the sport.

``You're supposed to showcase your hard work to the world,'' said Jeff

Sohal, a San Jose resident who will be holding his fourth Kabaddi

competition in April. Playing the sport is, in part, about showing values

rooted in a rural tradition, he said.

Traditionally, Sohal said, Kabaddi was a way for Indian farmers to

gather after their harvest to show who was the fittest -- and therefore who

worked the hardest.

``If you're doing it through steroids and drugs,'' he said, ``you're

not catching the spirit of it.''

Kabaddi is also a way of cultivating the culture throughout the world.

``From Hong Kong to the Punjab to London and Yuba City, Kabaddi is

being played,'' said Gurinder Singh Mann, a professor of Sikh and Punjab

studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara. ``This is a way they

have found to connect to each other. It's an indication of the globalization

of the Sikh community.''

And steroids are antithetical to the tradition, said Tarlochan Lasher,

a Los Banos trucking business owner who runs a highly successful Kabaddi

club that travels across California and the nation.

``This is a mother game,'' said Lasher, who also runs a free Kabaddi

academy in Punjab for poor children. ``It's an inherited thing. It used to

be played by our forefathers. We're carrying on the same thing. It's sports

as a part of the community.''

For the most part, Kabaddi is played by amateurs on loosely knit area

teams. Kuljeet Singh -- who sometimes works as a commercial truck driver --

said his travel expenses to compete in tournaments around the country, in

Canada and India were often paid by donations from local Kabaddi supporters.

Dr. Gary Wadler, who works with the World Anti-Doping Agency and is an

authority on steroid use, said the idea that the majority of users are elite

athletes is a myth.

``It's wherever there is a premium to get bigger and more

aggressive,'' Wadler said.

Another doping expert said it was only a matter of time before

steroids infiltrated even the most obscure international sports.

``They're everywhere. The plague has leaked down to the kids,'' said

John Hoberman, a professor at the University of Texas. ``It's a cultural

virus, and the name of the virus is performance with capital `P.' If you can

show me an athletic population that is culturally resistant to the appeal of

high performance, then you have a sporting culture where you might be able

to exclude doping.''

Sohal said he hopes Kabaddi is part of such a culture.

When he heard of Singh's arrest, he decided to pass out steroid health

information to all the teams in his April 23 San Jose tournament.

Kuljeet Singh, the organizer said, is not invited.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

are steroids really that bad? many people take other supplements to bulk up such as whey protein, creatine, proGF etc. these are all ok so why not steroids? i am not sure wether i agree with them or not yet but reading the article above i can see that not taking performance enhancers can be good. but if that is the case why creatine etc?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...