Chances look bright for Renjith Maheswary to get the Arjuna award as the Union Sports Ministry has got it ‘confirmed’ that the triple jumper had ‘accidentally’ ingested ephedrine, a stimulant commonly available in decongestants.
The Ministry has also kept in mind the practical implementation of the rule related to doping in the Arjuna award scheme. According to the rule, amended in 2010, sportspersons found positive for use of drugs banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in any laboratory accredited by the IOC would not be eligible for the award.
However, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, testing positive for a banned substance was not an offence on its own unless the athlete concerned was held guilty following a hearing process.
“Absolutely,” Sports Secretary P.K. Deb, who is heading an enquiry into the issue, told The Hindu on Sunday. “That is why we have not taken away the award from him as yet.”
After a media report stated that Maheswary had been suspended for three months for failing a dope test in September, 2008, the Ministry decided to withhold the award to the Kerala athlete hours before the commencement of the National Sports Awards function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here on Saturday.
Maheswary said that he was never suspended for a doping violation, but his eligibility was kept pending during the course of the hearing. Deb said considering that Maheswary’s positive test had come before the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) became effective, the Ministry might show some ‘sympathy’ towards the athlete.
“It happened in 2008 before NADA. So, we will be as liberal as possible. It was not deliberate. It happened accidentally. We have found out that he took ephedrine on doctor’s advice. The doctor confirmed to us that he had given the prescription. Besides, from 2008 to 2013, Maheswary has been tested more than 40 times and he has come clear in all these tests.”
Deb said before proceeding with Maheswary’s name for the award, the Ministry had sought clearance from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). “Of course, the AFI had said that there was no doping case against him. It is one of the mandatory clauses in the (Arjuna award) form. We had also checked with the NADA (before selecting him for the award).”
The Sports Ministry has, meanwhile, asked the AFI to supply information on the whole episode and the National federation is expected to provide the required details on Monday.
While claiming innocence, Maheswary said he would speak on the issue after the completion of the enquiry.