By pleading for backdating the commencement of suspension to sample collection date, the suspended 400m runners have shown that they still nurse hopes of running at least one qualification relay race for the London Olympic Games.

The plea came before the Justice C. K. Mahajan-headed National Anti-Doping Appeal panel (NADAP) last Friday from four of the six suspended quarter-milers, Ashwini A. C., Sini Jose, Tiana Mary Thomas and Priyanka Panwar, when their appeal  for exoneration came up for hearing.

The order has been reserved in the case. The Olympic relay qualification deadline is July 2 while individual qualification period closes on July 8. The girls have been suspended for a year from their provisional suspension dates.

If that decision of the disciplinary panel is not amended by the NADAP, three of the suspended athletes — Ashwini, Sini and Priyanka — will surely miss the Olympic relay qualification deadline when they return.

Otherwise, all the four could theoretically be eligible for at least one last relay attempt during the Asian All Stars meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on July 1. Of course their return will also depend on reinstatement testing to be completed successfully and in time.

The defence lawyer has pleaded that there had been substantial delays “not attributable to the athletes” that should enable the athletes to have their suspension commencement pegged to sample collection date.

However, it is always difficult to establish how much time was wasted because of defence lawyer's requests for postponements or his delaying tactics; how much due to prosecution's adjournment requests or how much due to panel members' preoccupation.

Having taken the stand that there was no ground to file an appeal against the one-year sanction the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) took a surprising deviation in arguing that there were questions that were not fully explained during the disciplinary panel proceedings.

Though NADA has not filed a counter appeal seeking enhancement of suspension, its lawyer referred to the fact that only two athletes tested positive for two steroids (methandienone and stanozolol) and the other four only for one (methandienone), while the supplement (ginseng) they took returned ‘positive' tests for both the steroids.

The defence lawyer's explanation that stanozolol might have got washed out after two or three weeks and those who were tested later were bound to show up only methandienone might sound logical on the face of it.

But once we compare dates of testing, more questions come up. Mandeep Kaur and Jauna Murmu, not in the batch that has gone in for appeal, were tested by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on May 25 and 26 last respectively. Of the two, Mandeep tested positive for both the steroids.

From the other four, Tiana tested positive for both the steroids in a sample collected on June 12, but from her June 27 sample, only methandienone was detected, strengthening the argument put forward by defence counsel.

But, now look at the fact that Sini, who was also tested on June 12 returned only methandienone. Also note the inexplicable phenomenon of Murmu, tested a day after Mandeep, also returning just methandienone in her urine sample.

If we accept that it was around May 10, 2011 the coach had given the Chinese ginseng to the athletes, as mentioned in the disciplinary panel order, both Mandeep and Murmu should have returned ‘positive' tests for stanozolol and methandienone.

Stanozolol in oral form can get eliminated from the system in about three weeks while methandienone may take about five to six weeks.

The foreign coach's supplements chart showed a programme between May 10 and June 10 last. No firm dates of individual athlete's consumption had been brought out during the hearings.

Everything is thus left to conjecture in establishing how some athletes turned in ‘positives' for two steroids and some did not by consuming the same “contaminated” ginseng.

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