For the second time in three months an athlete has been given a reduced sanction for a steroid violation on the argument that he was prescribed that drug by a qualified doctor and he should get the benefit of the rules regarding ‘no significant fault or negligence.’

Anuj Kumar Singh of Uttar Pradesh, who tested positive for steroid nandrolone at the National rowing championships in Hyderabad last February, was suspended for 18 months by a disciplinary panel headed by R.S. Chauhan recently.

Anuj pleaded that he was prescribed Deca-Duraboln (described as Decaderabolin-25 in the order) by a doctor at the District Hospital, Ghazipur, UP, for recovery following a bout of typhoid. Deca-Durabolin is nothing but nandrolone.

Though it is debatable whether steroids could be prescribed for treatment of or recovery from typhoid, the same mode of treatment was reported in the case of distance runner Jagdish Patel last May. He was eventually given a one-year suspension since he also took the plea and submitted medical records to prove that the Deca-Durabolin was prescribed for the treatment of typhoid.

The rules stipulate that an athlete should take a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) before using a banned substance for medical purposes.

Nandrolone is generally used in the treatment of certain types of cancer and osteoporosis. Steroid violations normally attract a two-year suspension unless a case under the ‘exceptional circumstances’ rule is proved.

It was asserted in the Patel case, however, that the steroid in question was a drug generally used for the treatment of typhoid in government hospitals and dispensaries in India. In the latest case no such claim had been made, however.

It may be noted that in the past, the appeal panel headed by Justice C. K. Mahajan (retd.) had rejected the pleas of the athletes in similar situations, where steroids were prescribed by qualified doctors for what had been explained as legitimate medical conditions.

The Mahajan panel ruled that the athlete cannot hide behind the ignorance of a medical practitioner regarding anti-doping rules and banned substances while upholding appeals by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and imposing two-year suspensions on athlete Sharadha Narayana and weightlifter Pradeep Sharma in July last year.

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