The National Anti-Doping Appeal panel (NADAP) has a huge backlog to clear in the new year, having been rather lethargic in even taking up the cases during the previous year. Of the 20 appeals pending from 2013, the NADAP has cleared just three cases by January 14.

Of the carry-over batch of 17, there are 10 cases involving the controversial stimulant, methylhexaneamine (MHA). The 11 MHA cases that went through disciplinary panel hearings from September, 2010 up to November, 2012 before being disposed of with two-year suspensions for all, went into appeal on November 19, 2012.

Blatant breach

Of the 11, swimmer Jyotsana Pansare had her suspension reduced to one year by the appeal panel on September 23 last year on the ground that her use of the banned substance was inadvertent.

Quite shockingly, the appeal panel also restored all of Pansare’s results from August 26, 2010, the date of her sample collection, which were disqualified by the disciplinary panel headed by Dinesh Dayal. That meant even her results in the National championships in Jaipur in 2010 were to be restored to her.

This was in blatant breach of the World Anti Doping Code since the rules stipulate that the results achieved in a competition from which a “positive” test arose would automatically be disqualified, irrespective of the final outcome of the hearings.

This rule has not been strictly followed by either the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) or the hearing panels, the exception being the set of 11 MHA cases of 2010.

The NADAP was revamped in February, 2013 with Justice (retd.) M.L. Varma being appointed chairman in place of Justice (retd.) C.K. Mahajan. New members including hockey Olympian Zafar Iqbal, were also appointed to the panel.

The Justice Mahajan-headed panel had disposed of as many as 18 appeals during the year 2012. In contrast, the new panel cleared just two in 2013 despite requests by NADA to speed up the process.

Pending appeals

Fourteen months after filing their petitions, the athletes involved in the 2010 MHA cases find that their appeals are still pending. Six of them were called for a hearing in December, 2012 but at the last minute it was postponed.

One of them, shot putter Saurabh Vij, had a second offence, for a steroid, in April 2012. Disciplinary panel hearing in that case was adjourned in August last year since his appeal in the MHA case was pending and a decision could have been given only on the basis of a final verdict for the first offence.

Justice Varma, it is learnt, has agreed to complete the hearings on an expedited basis but there is little possibility of all of them being disposed of by the end of February, as NADA had been targeting.

That a set of MHA cases have dragged on for more than three years should be a matter of concern to the WADA apart from all agencies engaged in the anti-doping measures in the country. The athletes are the eventual sufferers.

New NADA DG

Meanwhile, the NADA has a new Director General in G.S.G. Ayyangar, a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. He has taken over from Mukul Chatterjee who retired last month.

Being a government-controlled organisation, as against the “independent” structure suggested in the WADA Code, the NADA has been having Joint-Secretary-level officers at the helm through these years.

Mr. Ayyangar has his task cut out. Even as he and his team should be working overtime to dispose of pending cases before disciplinary and appeal panels, the NADA will have to work out some formula by which it can have a credible “whereabouts” testing programme.

That the NADA is yet to have a “whereabouts” list in athletics, after five years of its existence, only goes to prove how ineffective out-of-competing testing had been in India these past few years.

K.P. Mohan is the former athletics correspondent of The Hindu

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