How India’s economic history makes it a hotbed for steroids

How India’s economic history makes it a hotbed for steroids

By Tim Fernholz @timfernholz an hour ago

India has the highest number of athletes suspended after testing positive for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs since 2009, followed by Russia, the New York Times reports.A big part of the reason why is the country’s approach to trade. It is a massive producer of generic pharmaceuticals, providing much-needed treatments at prices far below those of Western manufacturers as the drug-maker for the developing world. That has made finding steroids there easy and cheap, with a month’s supply of banned substances reportedly costing as little as $5 to $10 a month.

But India is also one of the more trade-protected countries in the world. While it has made great strides in lowering tariffs since it began doing so in the 1990s, there are high tariffs—ranging from 30% to 150% (pdf)—for protein supplements, energy drinks, and other legal tools that athletes use to improve recovery time and performance. This can put them out of reach of many Indian athletes who don’t get the same kind of funding as their peers in wealthier countries. A full regimen of allowed supplements could cost 10 times as much as the shadier (and quicker-acting) pharmaceutical path.

Oh, and then there’s the country’s relationship with Russia, dating back to its refusal to pick sides during the Cold War. Coaches hired from Russia and other eastern-bloc countries where doping is problematic have brought some of those practices to India.

There are always unintended consequences to economic decisions, but it’s fair to say that when India’s plans to nurture domestic industry were put into play, few foresaw that heavy sports doping would be one of the outcomes.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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