The recent spate of ‘positive' dopes tests has brought into the open the inadequate system of information flow concerning anti-doping procedures, the prohibited list and its yearly changes.
Sportspersons have complained that they were not told about changes in the 2010 prohibited list issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The Code has provisions to deal with “accidental use” of prohibited substances. Earlier these substances which were prone to inadvertent use, like cold medications for example, were categorised as ‘specified substances'.
The prohibited list mentions right at the start, “the use of any drug should be limited to medically justified indications.”
It also says from 2009 onwards: “All Prohibited Substances shall be considered as “Specified Substances” except Substances in…” A short list of categories follows that are not to be considered as ‘specified substances” and this includes anabolic agents (steroids) and hormones and a classification of stimulants under S6.a.
This (S6.a) is the category of stimulants that includes methylhexaneamine, which is at the centre of a raging doping scandal that has shaken the Indian sports officialdom on the eve of the Commonwealth Games.
It is quite possible the majority, if not all, of the dozen Indian sportspersons now facing anti-doping rule violation charges for methylhexaneamine use, did not know that the substance, by name, was included in the prohibited list from January 1 this year. It is not considered as a medicine by WADA.
Quite likely the sportspersons also did not know that methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta has been added as an example for CERA (Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator) in the 2010 list.
An athlete is supposed to seek expert opinion about what to take and what not to. “I didn't know” is never an excuse in law nor is it acceptable in anti-doping hearings.
Even if the athletes were informed about the inclusion of methylhexaneamine in the 2010 list, they might not have been told under what name it was available in the supplements in the market. That happens to be, in most cases, dimethylamylamine (DMAA).
In fact in dimethylamylamine preparations, probably through which the substance got into the athletes' bodies, the salt is prominently displayed, apart from being listed in the ingredients.
According to the Code, under the ‘strict liability' rule, athletes are responsible for what they consume, and for what turns up in his/her bodily fluids.
The ‘exceptional circumstances' rule gives two options for pleas, “no fault or negligence” where the sanction can be completely eliminated and “no significant fault or negligence” where a reduced sanction is possible.
In both cases, an athlete will have to prove how a banned substance got into his body. Contamination of a supplement cannot be argued under the ‘no fault' clause' but it can be under the ‘no significant' one.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the WADA keep reminding athletes that supplements could be contaminated and they could test positive.
The federations have argued that they have done their best to educate the athletes about the harmful effects of drugs, apart from keeping them informed about rule changes.
“We held a seminar on doping at Udaipur during the last National,” says Sahdev Yadav, Secretary of the Indian Weightlifting Federation. “There are weekly briefings in camps.”
The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) says it has been circulating booklets containing banned substances and anti-doping rules.
“In every camp, athletes are told that they should not take any medicine or substance or supplements, not even Crocin, without consulting the doctor in charge,” says a coach. “Then how come they are now arguing that they were taking supplements procured on their own?”