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WADA appeals shot putter Inderjeet Singh’s exoneration by Indian Anti-Doping Appeal Panel to CAS

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) the decision of the Indian Anti-Doping Appeal Panel (ADAP) to exonerate shot putter Inderjeet Singh in his 2016 doping case and sought reinstatement of his four-year suspension, according to a source privy to the development.

Inderjeet, 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist and 2015 Asian champion, had tested positive in June 2016 in the run-up to the Rio Olympics. A decision to impose a four-year suspension by an Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADD) came only in July 2018.

 WADA appeals shot putter Inderjeet Singh’s exoneration by Indian Anti-Doping Appeal Panel to CAS

File image of Indian shot putter Inderjeet Singh. AFP

Inderjeet appealed the decision to the ADAP which last December ruled that there were enough discrepancies in procedures and chain of custody to warrant exoneration of the athlete from the doping charges.

Having undergone more than two years of suspension, Inderjeet was back on the field in the recent Indian Grand Prix series, posting a best of 19.35m for second place in the opening meet at Patiala. That was just 15cm shy of the qualification for the Asian Championships in Doha in April.

Irrespective of what he might achieve in the final selection trials for the Asian meet, the Federation Cup at Patiala from 15 March, Inderjeet could have been expected to be included in the team. Now, with the WADA appeal in CAS there could be a doubt. If there is no stay on his participation, he can continue to compete and then wait for the final outcome which might take around three to four months. Depending on the decision his results from the recent meets could be disqualified.

The 30-year-old former National record-holder’s chances of figuring in the Tokyo Olympics would be over if the CAS upholds the WADA appeal. For, the four-year suspension in the normal course would have stretched into June 2020 giving him little time to qualify for the Games. Now, with his return to competition, there is no knowing how the ineligibility period would be adjusted if the appeal is upheld.

In a drawn-out battle, Inderjeet’s counsel argued before the ADDP panel, headed by lawyer Manik Dogra, that there were discrepancies in transportation and storage of the first sample collected at the athlete’s home at Bhiwani, Haryana, on 22 June.

The second sample, an in-competition one at the Inter-State meet at Hyderabad on 29 June that was tested first, reported ‘negative’ initially but subsequently on being advised to do an Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) analysis, probably by WADA through ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration and Management System) the lab detected testosterone precursors — the same as those found in the Bhiwani sample.

The Hyderabad sample documentation showed 20ml less of urine when received by the laboratory and that became a major point of argument for the defence that finally clinched a favourable verdict for the athlete at the appeal stage.

The ADDP, going by past rulings of CAS, came to the conclusion that deviations in procedures should have reasonably led to the adverse analytical finding for any panel to rule in favour of the athlete. Since that could not be proved by the athlete, the Dogra panel handed out a four-year suspension.

The same arguments as that at the disciplinary stage were made in the appeal hearing. But, crucially for the athlete, the ADAP, headed by Senior Advocate Ms Vibha Datta Makhija, accepted almost all the contentions of Inderjeet and set aside the ADDP order. It also passed strictures against the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) for violating norms especially with transportation and chain of custody and in not waiting for the disciplinary panel to rule on the Punjab athlete’s request for a ‘B’ sample test at a foreign lab.

It was admitted that the Dope Control Officer (DCO) had travelled by bus to his residence after collecting the urine sample late in the night at Bhiwani, stored the sample in his refrigerator at his home, took it next morning and deposited it at the NADA office which, in turn, relayed it to the laboratory. The chain of custody was unexplained, it was argued.

In both instances, at first hearing and appeal hearing, though comparisons were made of the CAS decision in respect of two athletes in the 2008 Beijing Olympics (hammer throwers Vadim Devyatovskiy and Ivan Tsikhan) and later decisions by CAS, neither side seemed to have brought forward the crucial change in the WADA rules from 2003 to 2009.

The 2003 rule demanded the testing authority to prove that deviations caused during procedures had not led to an adverse analytical finding. The 2009 and 2015 rules (latter applicable in the Inderjeet case) put the onus on the athlete in proving that deviations could reasonably be assumed to have led to the adverse analytical finding.

The CAS panel ruled in favour of Devyatovski and Tsikhan since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had brought in a change in the rules not available in the WADA Code at that time (2008). WADA subsequently changed the rule.

The ADAP was satisfied that the missing quantity of urine in the Hyderabad sample was good enough reason to doubt its integrity. “The identity of the second sample itself was compromised…” the appeal panel wrote in its order.

The questions that could come up at the CAS hearings could be: Was the Bhiwani sample received by the laboratory as fit enough to be accepted? Was the seal intact in the second sample collected from Hyderabad when it was received by the laboratory? The lab is the authority to certify the integrity of the sample received.

The DCO in Hyderabad had refused to attend hearings (he had quit NADA by then) and that proved a handicap for NADA since none one could explain the difference in volume recorded by him at the time of collection and by the lab.

It is going to be an anxious wait for Inderjeet in the next few months.

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Updated Date: Mar 07, 2019 22:50:24 IST