The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an appeal by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Tuesday and enhanced the suspensions of the six female Indian athletes from one year to two years.
The CAS also slapped costs on the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the six athletes.
The six 400m runners, three of them part of the gold-medal-winning relay teams in the last Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, were suspended last December for one year for steroid violations in May-June last year.
On appeal to the National appeal panel, their one-year sanctions were upheld, but four of them had their suspension commencement backdated to sample collection date, in order to enable them to participate in “Olympic trials”.
The CAS decision, by a single arbiter, Andrew Hovell of Britain, ruled that the two-year suspensions would commence from decision date (July 17) with a provision to reduce the period served under one-year suspension and provisional suspension.
The athletes would be eligible to return in June, 2013 after completion of re-instatement testing.
The CAS ruling, in two separate decisions, brings to an end the most-publicized doping cases in India about a bunch of “village girls” who brought glory to the country in 2010.
The CAS decision set aside the disciplinary panel decision given on December 23 last and imposed costs on the respondents. In the Mandeep Kaur-Jauna Murmu case the CAS ruled that the AFI would bear half the costs and the rest would be shared equally by the two athletes.
In the case of the other four athletes — Asian Games gold medal winner in 400m hurdles, Ashwini A.C., Sini Jose, Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas — half the costs would be borne by the AFI and each athlete would bear one-eighth of the costs.
The costs of the procedures before CAS, brought forward by the IAAF, would be determined separately by the CAS. The detailed order would also be announced at a later date. The parties would bear their own legal costs.
All other motions or prayers for relief were dismissed.
In what were precedent-setting decisions in anti-doping arbitration in India, both at the disciplinary and appeal panel level, the athletes were found ‘not guilty’ of negligence in taking the supplement (ginseng) given by Ukrainian coach Yuriy Ogorodnik.
The supplement, on testing in the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) was found to contain steroids methandienone and stanozolol.
Two of the athletes tested positive for both drugs while four others tested positive only for methandienone.
Defence counsel R.K. Anand was accompanied by three of the suspended athletes, Mandeep Kaur, Jauna Murmu and Priyanka Panwar to the CAS headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“The athletes were not properly educated and did not own laptops, were not acquainted with internet use to conduct any kind of personal enquiries,” the appeal panel headed by Justice C.K. Mahajan had stated its order. Anand,who was able to convince the Indian panels, is learnt to have stressed on the lack of education programme in India on doping matters during the CAS hearing on Monday.
Anand’s focus during hearings at home had been on these athletes being the top runners in the country and the necessity for them to train and prepare for Olympic Games even as they could be serving suspensions.
A petition filed by four of the athletes is pending in the Delhi High Court. The next hearing is scheduled for October 15.
There was hardly any possibility of any of the suspended athletes returning to assist the battered 4x400m relay team to qualify for the Olympics since they had to complete their re-instatement testing. Once the IAAF re-imposed provisional suspensions on the stars, the AFI gave up the idea of further chasing the qualification timings.