Adjournments in dope hearings have become routine. Hearings have dragged on and cases are being disposed of well after the three-month deadline stipulated under the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) rules.
The way the adjournments are being sought and granted in several important doping cases, the comparison invariably tends to be made to civil court proceedings rather than those decided by adjudicating panels, sitting and deciding the future of athletes.
Despite his repeated observations that he wished to wind up the arguments in the cases of six leading female athletes, facing charges of steroid abuse, noted lawyer R.K. Anand has shown little urgency during the last two hearings.
At the last hearing on August 18, Anand had sought certain documents from the laboratory and the matter had to be adjourned. He admitted that day that he had the complete documentation package of the two athletes who were found ‘positive' in tests conducted by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Mandeep Kaur and Jauna Murmu, but no headway was made even in those two cases.
On Wednesday, the only missing document in the voluminous collection Anand had was a Laboratory Documentation Package in respect of a second ‘positive' test returned by one of the athletes, Tiana Mary Thomas. It had not even been sought from the laboratory by the athlete or the lawyer.
The prosecution lawyer, Gajendra Kumar, made a plea that they could take up the rest of the cases. But the plea fell on deaf ears. The cases have now been adjourned to October 5.
The athletes seemed unperturbed even as Anand expressed concern over their careers. All six are under provisional suspension.
Why the six cases should be clubbed together is beyond anyone's understanding. Is it only because the defence lawyer is the same for all six?
Two of the cases, those of Mandeep and Murmu, have practically been ‘wrested' from the domain of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), supposed to adjudicate on behalf of the IAAF, by the NADA.
Two of them, Sini Jose and Tiana, were from in-competition tests at the Bangalore inter-State meet in June last, and two others, A.C. Ashwini and Priyanka Panwar, in out-of-competition tests done at Patiala. Tiana also turned in a ‘positive' in a Patiala test shortly after the Bangalore meet. However, her two offences will only be treated as one.
In all fairness, the cases of Mandeep and Murmu should be heard separately, unconnected with documentations being requested and processed for others, since their cases come under the IAAF rules. At least that is what the IAAF had stipulated when it agreed to their cases being transferred to the NADA.
Meanwhile, the Dinesh Dayal-headed disciplinary panel took on record on Wednesday a letter from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) forwarding a supplement-testing report by the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL).
The testing, done without the knowledge of the NADA, was at the request of the Justice Mudgal Committee which wanted the report to be placed before the hearing panel.
It was amusing to note on Wednesday the prosecution lawyers requesting a copy of that report which was based on supplements “seized” from athletes and one sample of supplement provided by Priyanka.
The one closed package given by Priyanka and one of the other products, “seized” from the athletes, both reportedly ginseng samples, turned up ‘positive' for a steroid that was found in the urine samples of the 400m runners.
It was not clear who “seized” those supplements, when and where. In the meantime, there was further delay in the methylhexaneamine cases involving 11 sportspersons since Anand was awaiting some more documents he had sought from the laboratory. The cases have gone on for nearly a year now. The next hearing would be on October 7.