WADA reviewing NDTL’s recall of Indian javelin thrower Devinder Singh Kang's adverse analytical report

  • A suspension of the Delhi lab could prove a setback to India’s immediate and long-term preparations in several disciplines.

  • Last year, Stockholm, Helsinki and Bucharest laboratories were among those suspended by WADA.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is reviewing the recall of an adverse analytical report by the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL), New Delhi.

The adverse report was in respect to javelin thrower Devinder Singh Kang, a finalist at the 2017 World Athletics Championships. He was tested by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in November 2017. He tested positive for a steroid.

 WADA reviewing NDTL’s recall of Indian javelin thrower Devinder Singh Kangs adverse analytical report

Representational image. AP

After the AIU having imposed a provisional suspension on Kang and having started the process for a tribunal hearing, it was apparently taken by surprise when the NDTL withdrew its adverse analytical finding (AAF) report sometime in the last week of February.

In response to a query, WADA stated: “WADA is aware of this case and the situation is currently being reviewed by WADA’s Laboratory Expert Group.”

It refused to elaborate saying that it would not be proper at this stage.

If by any chance, there is some adverse report by the WADA panel against NDTL and subsequent action by WADA in either suspending or downgrading or limiting the lab’s testing with respect to specific tests (for example, the Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry or IRMS) then it might turn out to be a blow to the Indian anti-doping efforts in the coming months. Last year, Stockholm, Helsinki and Bucharest laboratories were among those suspended by WADA.

A suspension of the Delhi lab could prove a setback to India’s immediate and long-term preparations in several disciplines. Of immediate concern could be the athletics teams’ build-up towards the Asian Championships in Doha in April and the World Championships, also in Doha, in September. Nothing can prevent the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) from sending the samples to any other accredited laboratory, say for example Doha, Bangkok or Beijing. But testing in laboratories abroad could be costly, though, something that may deter NADA from doing its usual quota of samples.

Till WADA comes up with a statement, everything will, however, remain in the realm of speculation.

A report in The Times of India had stated that Kang was informed that he was free to compete by AIU following the withdrawal of the adverse analytical report by NDTL.

It could not immediately be ascertained whether Kang was going to compete in the Federation Cup at Patiala from 15 March, the final selection trials to pick the team for the Asian Championships.

Last September, a WADA team had collected an unspecified number of samples from the NDTL (speculated to be above 100 in various reports) and six of them turned up positive in re-tests done at the WADA-accredited lab in Montreal after having been declared ‘negative’ in the Delhi lab. Five of them were in athletics and one in weightlifting.

The five athletes — whose violations became known last November — were Nirmala Sheoran (400m), Sanjivani Jadhav (distance events), Jhuma Khatun (middle distance events) and Sandeep Kumari (discus throw) among women and Naveen Chikara, a male shot putter, and woman weightlifter Poonam Dalal. Their hearing processes are ongoing.

Many people have posed the question whether NDTL had failed to detect the drugs when it tested the samples in Delhi or whether the Montreal lab had a superior technique by which it was able to spot them. This question had also been mentioned in some reports regarding the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s apparent reluctance to allow NADA to test its cricketers.

Though nothing has been stated by WADA regarding these re-tests and subsequent positive reports in respect of six Indian athletes, knowledgeable observers have pointed out that it probably had to do with the Minimum Required Performance Level (MRPL) laid down by WADA rather than NDTL’s “inefficiency”. The fact that WADA has not initiated any action so far following these ‘positive’ cases in re-tests has also gone in favour of NDTL.

The WADA technical document on MRPL states: “In order to ensure that all WADA-accredited Laboratories can report the presence of Prohibited Substances, their Metabolite(s) or their Marker(s) in a uniform way, a minimum routine detection and identification capability for testing methods has been established. It is recognised that some Laboratories will be able to identify lower concentrations of Prohibited Substances than other Laboratories. While such individual capabilities are encouraged in order to improve the overall system, it is also recognised that there are Minimum Required Performance Levels (MRPL) at which all Laboratories shall operate…”

It is believed, some laboratories including Montreal and Cologne have a higher level than MRPL while NDTL does not have anything beyond the MRPL. NDTL is learnt to be upgrading its equipment to catch up with the best labs in the world.

The latest development of a “recall” of an adverse report, however, does not fit into the above explanation and that has led to speculation about the fate of NDTL’s accreditation.

The failure of NDTL to seek a second opinion on a test, as stipulated in the rules, as mentioned in The Times of India report, also may not explain the withdrawal of the ‘positive’ report. For, in the past, too, NDTL has reported such cases without having a second opinion and without recalling the report subsequently.

The ‘second opinion’ as mentioned in the report relates to the IRMS analysis of a urine sample which helps a lab to confirm whether an exogenous (outside the body) substance was introduced into the system to produce an endogenous (within the body) steroid, say for example testosterone.

Kang tested positive for precursors of testosterone. That was his second positive test, the first one having come in May 2017 when he tested positive for marijuana. He received a ‘reprimand’ for that offence with no period of ineligibility. Had the second offence been upheld, Kang could have been facing a ban of more than four years.

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Updated Date: Mar 10, 2019 21:45:17 IST

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