Leading lawyer R.K. Anand, appearing for six woman 400m runners who had been reported for adverse analytical findings from dope tests, has alleged that the top quarter-milers were targeted by the authorities before the last Asian athletics championships in Kobe, Japan.
He told a National Anti Doping Disciplinary panel, headed by retired judge Dinesh Dayal, that after having targeted the top six 400 runners in the country, the seventh-ranked athlete had also been found ‘positive' in a test conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). (The reference apparently was to Ranjana Roy who had been reported for an adverse finding in a recent test. On the basis of timings returned in the National inter-State meet in Bangalore last June, Ranjana would rank only ninth.)
Anand, appearing for the first time before the hearing panel in these doping cases involving the ‘cream' of the country's 400m talent, came along with the provisionally-suspended athletes — Mandeep Kaur, A.C. Ashwini, Jauna Murmu, Sini Jose, Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas. He claimed that he had not received the documents he had sought from the NADA.
The hearing has been adjourned till September 14. Two of the athletes, Mandeep and Murmu, tested positive in out-of-competition tests conducted by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in May last. Two others, Jose and Thomas, were reported for ‘positives' from the inter-State meet in Bangalore.
Following wide coverage of these four ‘positive' reports in the media, it was natural only that the NADA would test Ashwini and Panwar at Patiala. They also subsequently returned ‘positives'.
Mandeep and Murmu being in the international registered pool, targeting by the IAAF was also a natural phenomenon, for, otherwise a ‘registered pool' will have no meaning.
Anti-doping authorities are supposed to target test athletes who show abnormal improvement or those based on ‘intelligence information' gathered by the testing agencies.
At Thursday's hearing, prosecution lawyer Gajendra Kumar made a plea that procedures be laid down in these cases and a time-bound format adopted in order to dispose of the cases at the earliest.
Anand agreed that there was an urgency to complete the proceedings quickly since his clients had to prepare for next year's Olympics.
The NADA officials said that the defence had not sought Laboratory Documentation Package as was made out by Anand during the hearing. He had sought certain documents dealing with custodial procedures, laboratory lay-outs, personnel, their qualifications etc, they said. During the hearing Anand repeatedly showed spiral-bound documentation packages which he claimed were made available by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) right at the beginning of the hearing by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) in the case of Mandeep and Murmu.
Meanwhile, the panel ordered the suspension of Haryana shot putter Soniya for two years with effect from June 30 last, the date of her provisional suspension.