Even as the Union Sports Ministry took further time to take a decision on Renjith Maheswary’s eligibility to receive the Arjuna award, it was learnt that the Sports Authority of India (SAI) had backed the case of the triple jumper due to lack of evidence against him. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) has already informed the Union Sports Ministry that it had no record of Maheswary being penalised for an ephedrine violation during the Open National Meet at Kochi in 2008. The SAI, which was conducting all the dope tests in the pre-National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) era, in its response to the ministry had stated that since there was no evidence of the athlete being punished for an ephedrine positive result, he should be given the benefit of doubt.

The test, said a source, was reportedly done on October 3, 2008, and Maheswary had tested positive for ephedrine. The report was forwarded to the AFI with a copy to the Government of India. But the federation had not confirmed whether he was given a warning or punished. The SAI has argued that had he been punished, his gold medal would have been taken back. But he subsequently participated in National and international events and won medals. The source stressed this was enough to conclude that the positive test was “presumably due to the venial use of the prohibited substance.”

Referring to the 2003 WADA Code, the source said ephedrine, on the list of specified substances, which were susceptible to unintentional anti-doping rule violations because of their general availability in medicinal products or which were less likely to be successfully abused as doping agents, was “not a serious substance.”

The SAI was not sure whether Maheswary was warned, reprimanded or given a punishment and was inclined to give the athlete the benefit of doubt. The case has now been referred to sports minister Jitendra Singh for his final word.

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