All the laurels that were bestowed upon him have been laid to rest (at least for time being) as the doping episode takes centre stage for Subrata Pal, the custodian of Indian football. The 30-year-old recently failed the doping test conducted by the National Anti-Doping agency (NADA) after his sample 'A' test showed a positive result for a drug named Terbutaline.
The Arjun awardee denies that he cheated, as he wants to go ahead with the `B’ sample test to prove his innocence. But this is a dirty game in which many international athletes have fallen from grace.
He is the first goalkeeper of India to have tested positive, and the fourth footballer from the country. He has been a wanted player for most of the teams owing to his stellar career and ability as a keeper.
Subrata would often discuss the match during the intervals and after the match, about the progress of the team. Married to Debasmita Mukherjee Pal, life has not been rosy for this boy from Kolkata suburb of Sodepur.
When everything was falling into place, the infamous incident in the 2004 Federation Cup edition threatened to derail his promising career. On December 5th, donning the Mohun Bagan colours against Dempo in the Federation Cup Final at Bangalore, Dempo’s Brazilian striker Cristiano Junior passed away on the pitch after scoring his second of the day as Dempo won their first ever Federation Cup title.
It is believed that the on-field collision between Subrata and Cristiano was the cause. Most of the players who saw the incident - something that can occur on any football pitch across the world given the nature of the game - spared a young Subrata from the blame. However, there were a few individuals who put the culpability on Subrata for a rash challenge which could have been avoided.
Many pundits were of the opinion that it was the end of the young keeper after he was handed a ban. Under the cloud of uncertainties, however, he emerged stronger than before with his dedication and commitment to the game more prominent than ever. Since then, for 13 years, Subrata has been up there as one of the best keepers of India and was even given the nickname 'Spiderman'.
Pal was aggressive and would often get into tussles with the players around him. He had his breakthrough when he was selected as a cadet at the renowned Tata Football Academy in Jamshedpur. That brought about a change in the then young lad and he was fully devoted to football, which saw him emerge as a more mature person.
The development he showed saw him break the shackles as he made it into the India Junior national team, under the watchful eyes of none other than India's best youth coach Ranjan Chowdhury. It was here that his experience forged not just with his talent, but his fortitude.
After the recent drug test fiasco his image could plummet, a far-cry from the champion who was a household name not so long ago. His mentor, Ranjan Chowdhury, had once said of Pal during one of the Pune FC matches at the Balewadi sports complex, in Pune, “He will rise; I say this because he is a dedicated footballer, and what is more interesting, is his urge to do better day in and day out.”
As he fights a lone battle to stay at the top of his game, the iron-willed Kolkata boy can still count on a few allies in an uncertain time.
What is Terbutaline?
In pharmacological terms, it is called a Beta 2 Agonist and is often used in asthma and respiratory conditions for instantaneous relief.
Falling from Grace – Indian footballers who have tested positive for banned drugs
Arun Malhotra (East Bengal)
Year of doping test failure: 2002
Arun Malhotra, a defender by trade, tested positive for a banned substance in a doping test prior to the Indian team's departure for the 2002 Busan Asian Games.
Nishant Mehra (Mumbai FC)
Year of doping test failure: 2011
He was the first Indian footballer to be banned for doping. He tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Dane Pereira (Mumbai FC)
Year of doping test failure: 2015
He had traces of nandrolone, an anabolic steroid in his blood. Nandrolone is the most common steroid prescribed by doctors.
Subrata Pal (DSK Shivajians)
Year of doping test failure: 2017
He had traces of terbutaline, often used in asthma and respiratory conditions for instantaneous relief.