K.P. Mohan

Out-of-competition tests are held to shield players

  • The AFI has conveniently believed Seema Antil's `conspiracy theory'
  • The PCB has challenged the jurisdiction of CAS in the Akhtar-Asif case

    NEW DELHI: Is the sub-continent increasingly becoming defiant in following anti-doping rules? It seems it is reluctant to strictly apply the rules or else is keen to exploit loopholes in the rules that could eventually benefit athletes charged with doping violations.

    Four recent cases in the sub-continent, all for steroid violations, stand out for the manner in which they have been handled by the concerned national sports federations or regional bodies, putting a question mark on South Asia's commitment against anti-doping.

    In the first week of last December, two Pakistani cricketers, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, were cleared by an appeals panel of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) of doping charges and their suspensions revoked on the argument that the players were not warned about supplements contamination.

    Within a few days, a panel of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) cleared discus thrower Seema Antil after she was reported for a steroid (stanozolol) violation in an out-of-competition test in Delhi prior to the Doha Asian Games. The grounds for the reprieve were not disclosed but it was understood that "procedural lapses" during sample collection led the panel to rule in favour of the athlete.

    It was alleged by the athlete that certain individuals were out to malign her and the panel as well as the federation conveniently believed her "conspiracy theory".

    For all practical purposes, the Antil case has been closed, though the AFI replied to clarifications sought by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). The IAAF has been reluctant to intervene mainly because the test was conducted in a non-accredited laboratory.

    In mid-January, a disciplinary panel exonerated Sri Lankan sprinter Jani Chathurangani de Silva after a medical enquiry committee found her "guilty" of a nandrolone positive during the South Asian Games. The IAAF has since asked the Sri Lankan association to re-open the case and at the same time re-impose her provisional suspension.

    Unethical moves

    The verdict on the Akhtar-Asif case has been appealed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Lausanne, but following protests from the PCB, a three-member CAS panel is to decide first whether WADA has any jurisdiction to appeal in the case.

    Meanwhile, the Akhtar-Asif drama continues to unfold with the PCB deciding to test all its players named for the World Cup. But, not unexpectedly, the tests on Akhtar and Asif have been delayed.

    Amidst reports that the players are being given additional time to flush the nandrolone out of their system to avoid a "second positive" that could result in a life-ban, the PCB has claimed that the two players and Shahid Afridi, who went abroad after prior intimation, would be tested before proceeding to the West Indies.

    Such testing to help athletes avoid detection at major competitions has been in vogue in India also. WADA considers it unethical. Yet, in the Akhtar-Asif case, the PCB has made it look as though its commitment to the anti-doping cause has prompted it to test the World Cup-bound players.

    The ostensible reason, of protecting the players from further embarrassment on a big stage, is apparent to all. Still, the ICC is helpless, for, its rules do not allow it to test outside the competition, leave alone to intervene in a decision handed out by a PCB panel. An out-of-competition test, at the convenience of a player, well beyond a scheduled date, is not only pointless but also perhaps unheard of in a large majority of the countries. Such tests are invariably unannounced. The sub-continent is surely setting standards.

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