The National Anti-Doping Appeal panel has upheld the appeals of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) while imposing two-year suspensions on athlete Sharadha Narayana and weightlifter Pradeep Sharma.

Both were handed down suspensions in recent hearings by the panel, headed by Justice C.K. Mahajan (retd.), following appeals against their exoneration by the WADA.

Initially both appeals had run into problem when the Mahajan panel ruled that the WADA could not maintain two appeals in the same case, one at the national level and the other with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Lausanne.

The WADA withdrew its appeals with the CAS, paving the way for the Mahajan panel to resume hearing the cases on merit.

Sharadha and Sharma were suspended from the dates of sample collection, and provisional suspension respectively.

It was fixed as May 16, 2010 in the case of Sharadha, the day she gave the sample at the Open National in Kochi where she won the 100 metres title in a personal best 11.56 seconds, and March 15, 2010, the date of his provisional suspension in the case of Sharma who had tested positive at the Udaipur National the previous month.

Sharadha was not provisionally suspended by either the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) or the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

According to the appeal panel, the Tamil Nadu sprinter “voluntarily refrained from participating in any sporting event” after she was informed of the rule violation by a letter dated June 7, 2010.

There is, however, no provision in the rules for such voluntary acceptance of provisional suspension unless it is in writing and is noted and approved by the authority concerned.

Considerable delay

The panel also noted that there had been “considerable delay in the disposal of the case by the Disciplinary Authority.”

However, the crucial error in backdating her suspension seems to have been made in ignoring her participation in the all-India inter-Railway Championship in Chennai in February this year following her exoneration in January.

This might have happened since no agency informed the panel about her participation, but it is still a grave error.

Sharadha had tested positive for steroid Stanozolol.

Her doctor, Dr. C. Senthil Raj, had advised her drug for knee joint pain. Her last prescription, out of four recommending Stanozolol use, was dated September 5, 2009.

No question raised

No question has been raised, either at the disciplinary panel hearing or in the appeal panel, by any prosecuting authority or by the panels themselves, how a course of medicine that would have ended at least by October, 2009, could lead to a “positive” test on May 16, 2010.

Stanozolol gets cleared from the system in three weeks, if taken in tablet form (Menabol) or two months if taken in injection form (Winstrol).

Both were prescribed for Sharadha. The appeal panel simply ruled that the athlete cannot hide behind her doctor's ignorance of anti-doping rules. It also said she had failed to advance any truly exceptional circumstance to gain benefit out of the “no significant fault or negligent” rule that could have helped her gain a reduced sanction.

Failure to obtain exemption

Sharma had produced medical records to support his argument that he was advised testosterone therapy for infertility that eventually led to his turning up a 17:1 testosterone-epitestosterone (T/E) ratio against an allowable threshold of 4:1.

“It was imperative for the respondent to have obtained TUE (therapeutic use exemption) and having failed to do so, the respondent violated the anti-doping rules,” the WADA contended in its appeal.

The appeal panel ruled that the weightlifter had not taken all precautions to ensure that he was not violating any anti-doping rule in order to benefit from the “exceptional circumstances” clause.

According to the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) Secretary, Sahdev Yadav, Sharma did not compete in any meet even after his exoneration by the disciplinary panel.

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