Quite often one comes across instances of doctors having prescribed banned drugs to athletes, leading to their ‘positive' dope tests.

Though a prescription is never a licence to dope, in India athletes do try to hide behind the excuse that they had no clue about a particular drug and had to take it because of a medical condition on the advice of a doctor.

In a ‘first' of its kind, at least in anti-doping disciplinary proceedings in the country, a case came up on Friday before the National Anti-Doping Appeal panel (NADA) in which the panel's doctor member could not spot any drug in the prescription that could have caused the ‘positive' test, a ground on which the athlete was given a lenient punishment by the disciplinary panel.

The case related to BSF judoka Sapna Devi. She had tested positive for clenbuterol, which comes under the category ‘other anabolic agents' in the WADA Prohibited List, at the Police Games in March last year.

The disciplinary panel headed by Sudhir Nandrajog ruled in January last that Devi had established grounds for reduction of sanctions under Articles 10.4 and 10.5.1 read in conjunction with 10.5.2. Accordingly, the panel ordered that the period of suspension she had undergone till then (just over 10 months) under provisional suspension be treated as the sanction against her.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) appealed against the decision and sought a two-year sanction.

For one thing, Article 10.4, applicable only for ‘specified substances', should not have been cited in the first place since clenbuterol was not a ‘specified substance'.

No significant fault or negligence

Moreover, a medical prescription alone was not sufficient to gain a reduced suspension since ‘no significant fault or negligence' had to be proved.

For such an offence the suspension would have been one year.

No one could have imagined that the disciplinary panel, obviously on the advice given by its medical member (Dr. Nirmolak Singh), could have stated in its order, “…she has furnished the relevant prescriptions and the medicines prescribed therein carry the salt clenbuterol…” without any basis.

Prescription checked

The prescription was checked by Dr. Raju Vyas, the NADAP medical member, on Friday and he could not spot any medicine that might contain clenbuterol.

The disciplinary panel order did not mention the name of the medicine or medicines listed in the prescriptions that might have contained the drug in question nor did it mention the particular medical condition for which the medicine containing clenubterol was purportedly prescribed.

The WADA, in its appeal, stated that the prescription was illegible and the panel may verify from the athlete or through other sources what was prescribed. Devi merely said on Friday that she had not taken any banned substances knowingly. Significantly, there was no mention of the drug in question in her doping control form.

The order was reserved by panel chairman Justice C. K. Mahajan (retd.).

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