There is no doubt that public sympathy will lie with Baroda all-rounder Yusuf Pathan for his doping-related ban, but it is hard to appreciate Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) procedures in handling the case. Its inexperience comes through tellingly in the order that it has made public, suggesting that it must hand over the responsibility to National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
For, there are some holes in the BCCI order imposing the penalty on the cricketer. Take, for instance, the decision to backdate the commencement of the ban to 15 August, 2017. Of course, the BCCI could use the provisions in its anti-doping rules to backdate the ban to start even to the day the sample was collected. There appears to be no reasoned logic for such a decision.
In its eagerness to find a five-month window that would not affect his cricket, it chose August 15 as the start date, overlooking the fact that he had played two Ranji Trophy games in October. All this could have been avoided, had the BCCI been prompt in handling the case when NDTL reported a dope positive. The order does not make it clear why the player was notified of his ADRV only on October 28, more than six months after it became aware of the result.
Nor is there an explanation why it took the BCCI more than two and a half months to announce its decision, especially since the player admitted his ADRV, acceded to the consequences specified by BCCI and waived his right to a hearing before an Anti-Doping Tribunal? Come to think of it, the BCCI decision was made public a mere six days before the ban was scheduled to end.
A reading of the order will reveal some important facts that suggest that BCCI, as the Dope Control Authority, may not have been as careful in investigating the case as is necessary. Take, for example, BCCI’s admission that it suggested to the player that he could apply for a retroactive Therapeutic Exemption (TUE) if he suffered from asthma.
It is not the BCCI’s case, as the DCA, to make such a suggestion. Of course, as the organisation running the sport in the country, BCCI needs to educate all players about anti-doping but it is unethical — and against the spirit of anti-doping — for the DCA to suggest a player charged with an ADRV to try and secure a retroactive TUE.
The other thing that stands out is that while witness testimonies and evidence were presented to BCCI, the most crucial piece of evidence — the bottle of cough syrup — was not presented. Similarly, the hotel personnel who bought the medicine was not produced as witness. Neither Pathan nor team manager Dev Jadhav recalls the name of the cough syrup secured.
For a player who has been tested before, it is strange that he (and the team physiotherapist Sudip Banerjee he authorised to fill the Dope Control Form) did not remember to list the names of all medicines that the hotel’s medical consultant Dr Anil Kumar prescribed him, listing only a drug that tackles bacterial infection and a paracetamol tablet used to control cold and flu symptoms.
Its also worth noting that the medicine in question appears to have been sold and bought without cash memos — and this in an era when the BCCI and its state units, including the Baroda Cricket Association would have to account for every rupee spent.
What’s more, the player, while not remembering the name of the cough syrup, submitted that he could have been give Bro Zeet instead of Zeet Expectorant. The BCCI order says that the player established that at least one chemist in the Karol Bagh hotel’s vicinity stocks Bro Zeet. But how does that mean that it was indeed Bro Zeet that was procured?
There are a couple of other interesting fallacies that the BCCI order subscribes to.
There is a popular misconception that all substances prohibited by WADA are performance enhancing. For the BCCI, as the DCA, to spread that misconception does not augur well and is not in keeping with its stated “zero-tolerance” approach against doping. Similarly, BCCI must be aware that negative results of earlier tests should bear no relevance in a case.
If it needs any reminding, Lance Armstrong was tested hundreds of times and never produced a positive test. It is typical of those who fail tests to cite earlier clean chits, but for a dope control agency to mention in its order that a player has been tested five times and no adverse analytical finding has been reported suggests that the order was written by a defence lawyer.
At the moment, NADA can only watch from the sidelines and wait for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to insist on the ICC that BCCI comes under its purview. If WADA has said that the Yusuf Pathan case is an ongoing one, it is perhaps because it may not have got BCCI’s order yet.
This is the time for WADA to tell BCCI to get its anti-doping campaign in order.