Parul Varma, a 14-year-old judoka from Uttar Pradesh, was suspended by the Judo Federation of India (JFI), around three months ago, for an anti-doping rule violation.
As luck would have it, her case came up in a routine way before the National Anti-Doping Disciplinary panel on April 14 last. It should never have been dealt with by the federation in the first place, but the JFI, possibly unaware of the implications of the new anti-doping regime under the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), went ahead and suspended her for two years.
If the disciplinary panel also suspends her for the same period, even if from a different date, the story would end there and the embarrassment could be minimised though the entire procedure would still be faulty.
This may not happen and this case would probably set another example of the communication gap that exists between NADA and the National Sports Federations (NSFs) on the topic of “results management”.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code is unambiguous on the principle that “results management” should not be handled by multiple authorities and it should be done by the agency that initiated the test.
Parul was apparently able to make some impact on the panel when it met on April 14 as she explained her “positive” as the result of some medication given by her doctor. The panel has taken a sympathetic view of her plight and it is likely that it may either exonerate her or hand out a reduced sanction.
“We gave her a hearing when she made a representation, but we decided to suspend her. However, we are prepared to revoke her suspension if the (Anti-Doping Disciplinary) panel decides to reprieve her,” the JFI Secretary, Mukesh Kumar, told The Hindu on Sunday.
According to Kumar, a male judoka from Punjab was also suspended for two years by the federation some time ago. There was no record yet of his case having been listed for a hearing by the disciplinary panel. Kumar said that the International Judo Federation (IJF) had recently enquired about the “positive” cases from India.
It is not clear what sort of hearing process the JFI had adopted. Anti-doping rules demand a fair and prompt hearing. The JFI is supposed to follow the NADA rules by which every case at the National level would be brought before the Anti-Doping Disciplinary panel.
The problem with NADA and the disciplinary panel had been the slow pace of clearing cases. Since January 1, 2009, to date, the disciplinary panel has given verdicts on 45 athletes. There are three different panels.
Testing itself takes its own time though in theory in should be done within days. For example, athlete Shankar Poonia's sample was collected on August 27, 2009; his test was done on October 1; his first hearing came up only on March 16 this year and he was handed down a two-year suspension only five days ago.
Several such examples are available. NADA rules state that the hearing should commence within 14 days of the notification date and a written decision should be given within 20 days of the notification date.
Rules also demand that NADA carry out a preliminary review in each case. NADA does not have the machinery to go through with this procedure and often falls back on the NSFs. Even the latter hardly ever take the trouble of conducting such a review or a provisional hearing.
NADA is also supposed to impose and implement (through NSFs) provisional suspensions. It instead asks the athletes when they come before hearing panel whether they are under provisional suspension or not! And even agrees to a suspension imposed by an employer which is completely against its rules.