Boxer Vijender Singh’s blood and urine samples have expectedly returned negative results. Thirteen days after the National Anti-Doping Agency collected samples from Vijender and four other boxers under pressure from the Union Sports Ministry on April 3, the Ministry said in a release on Tuesday that it was “glad” to announce that “none of the boxers were found to have used any banned substances in the recent past.”
Punjab Police’s claim that Vijender had links with a drugs racket and had consumed heroin 12 times had spelt trouble for the Olympic medallist last month, and the Sports Ministry went out of its way to ask NADA, an autonomous body, to conduct a test on the boxer.
Since an athlete, under anti-doping regulations, can be tested for heroin (narcotics) only in-competition, it was a clear case of violating the World Anti-Doping Code when NADA collected the samples out-of-competition, and the National Anti-Doping Laboratory (NDTL) went ahead to perform tests for heroin.
The release issued by the Sports Ministry on Tuesday was contradictory in itself.
“Vijender Singh, along with four others, was subjected to an out-of-competition test for banned substances. A full menu test was conducted, which included testing for psychotropic substances,” said the release.
A “full menu test” means tests for all banned substances — both in and out-of-competition — were conducted. A test for psychotropic substances was obviously done to know whether traces of heroin were present in Vijender’s system.
A recent clarification from WADA said: “…if information given by the Government is that an athlete is using heroin, then the test (should) be conducted in-competition only as this substance is not prohibited out-of-competition. Given that samples may be collected and alkalised only for anti-doping purposes, taking a sample out-of-competition to look for heroin would be a breach of the World Anti-Doping Code art. 6.2.”
WADA further stated that the use of heroin out-of-competition was not prohibited, and a laboratory (NDTL, in this context) had “no reason to test for substances prohibited in-competition if the sample is collected only out-of-competition, as samples can be analysed only for anti-doping purposes.”
The development raises questions about the motive behind the test. Since the test was conducted in violation of the WADA regulations and cannot be used for penalising the athlete for an anti-doping violation, observers ask what the purpose of conducting such an exercise was.
Since Vijender’s samples were collected only almost a month after his alleged consumption, as charged by the Punjab Police, there was little chance that tests on his blood and urine samples would return ‘positive’.
The futility of such a test became all the more pronounced following the Punjab Police’s stand that it would give no credence to the NDTL test results.
Several other anti-doping protocols were also flouted during the process: Sports Minister Jitendra Singh himself revealing that
Vijender’s samples had been taken, and the Ministry announcing through a release that his test results were negative are uncommon and unheard of in the anti-doping domain.
Samples are taken unannounced and ‘negative’ test reports are never publicised.
The autonomy of the NADA and the NDTL, long eroded by governmental interference, has taken another knock.
The Vijender test shows that the NDTL, a WADA-accredited laboratory, can be influenced by outside agencies, much against the Code.
The NADA and NDTL are supposed to be ‘independent’ agencies but are headed by Sports Ministry officers.