Confronted with the first case in 13 months of its effective existence where it desperately needed the services of a lawyer, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) on Friday fretted and fumed to rebut the claims of Monika Devi.
The Manipur weightlifter who is defending an anti-doping rule violation charge, dating back to June, 2008, questioned the sample collection procedures and the integrity of her urine samples during the time they were stored in the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL).
She agreed at the same time to withdraw the writ petition she had filed in the Delhi High Court on the matter, a condition that the Anti Doping Disciplinary panel chairman, Sudhir Nandrajog, put before her lawyer, Ramesh Kumar, at the very outset of Friday’s resumed hearing.
Nandrajog’s observation came after Monika withdrew her previous plea for elimination of the sanction or a reduced sanction under the exceptional circumstances rule.
Monika urged the panel to quash the entire proceedings against her as she questioned the procedures adopted, testing, reporting and ‘results management’ process. She also argued about the media coming to know of her ‘positive’ test, prior to the Beijing Olympics, before she came to know of it.
Quoting from the report of the T.S. Krishna Murthy Commission, which went into her allegations of sabotage and bias made against several agencies, Ramesh Kumar pointed out that the NDTL had admitted before the panel that there were power failures during the period when her samples were stored in the laboratory.
The lawyer argued that the storage of the samples, at minus four degrees Celsius, as required under the rules, would not have been possible in such conditions.
Ramesh Kumar questioned the chain of custody of the samples also during the intervening period.
Dr. Pradeep Gupta, appearing for NADA, had no answer for several minutes when the storage question was raised, had no explanation about chain of custody and had no idea how the samples were collected, why there were variations in their pH, and how her ‘B’ samples were allowed to be tested in Tokyo.
Dr. Gupta eventually stated that he would seek the help of NDTL to confirm the integrity of the samples. “If you don’t have sufficient information, you shouldn’t have brought this case up,” Nandrajog admonished Dr Gupta.
“I am not the prosecutor nor the lawyer for the prosecuting agency,” Nandrajog told NADA, a statement that confirmed the growing belief that NADA had not bothered to prepare a foolproof case and it was ill-informed as well about various points that came up.
Ramesh Kumar requested the panel to grant Monika the permission to initiate the proceedings for participation in the Udaipur National starting on February 21, pending a final decision when the case resumed, but that plea was rejected.