Fresh hope for suspended athletes

The National Anti-Doping Appeal panel (NADAP) has given some hope to the four suspended female 400m runners towards their Olympic participation by backdating the commencement of their one-year suspension period to sample collection date.

In a decision made available to the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) on Tuesday, the NADAP ruled that the sample collection dates were being chosen as commencement date of suspension since such an arrangement “enables the athletes who as a result of the decision of the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) will miss the London Olympics, to train and compete in the forthcoming Olympic trials.”

The NADA issued a press release with the above wordings, apparently quoted from the NADAP decision, and that made it one of the rarest decisions, that of a hearing panel backdating a suspension on the argument that it would help an athlete compete in an Olympic qualification process.

Apparently what has been mentioned as “Olympic trials” was meant for Olympic qualification, especially in the 4x400m relay, for which all the four girls would now become eligible since they would return in time to beat the July 2 deadline for relay qualification.

Possible hurdle

What can possibly upset the plans of the runners, and perhaps the authorities, is the appeal that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has filed in the case of two other athletes (Mandeep Kaur and Jauna Murmu) and intends to file in the case of these four athletes with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Lausanne.

The IAAF would seek a minimum of two-year suspensions for all the six suspended women, sources confirmed on Tuesday. It had sought a stay on the proceedings in the Mandeep-Murmu case, pending the final outcome of the NADAP hearings.

The NADAP decision to dismiss the appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for an enhancement of the suspension and to uphold the verdict of the disciplinary panel or to backdate the commencement on a plea from the athletes did not come as a surprise to those who had been closely following the case.

Of the four girls, all suspended earlier from provisional suspension dates, Ashwini A.C. and Priyanka Panwar would now return to competition on June 26 while Sini Jose and Tiana Mary Thomas can come back on June 11.

The individual Olympic qualification period ends on July 8. The selection trial will be the inter-State meet to be held in Hyderabad from June 23 to 26.

Ashwini and Priyanka would have been able to return only after the relay qualification deadline had the earlier decision stood.

There will be the question of re-instatement testing also for all the suspended athletes.

Outcome of IAAF appeal

All the above calculations are of course dependent on the outcome of the IAAF appeal in CAS. Normally the CAS proceedings could take up to three to four months.

The IAAF can request an expedited hearing in view of the urgency that the respondents, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the athletes, are expected to show because of the proximity of Olympics.

The IAAF also has the right to impose provisional suspensions all over again on the athletes should the CAS case stretch beyond the date of return of the athletes after their one-year suspensions.

The decision to re-impose the provisional suspensions on the expiry of regular suspensions could be taken by its Doping Review Board, pending the CAS verdict.

The IAAF is expected to focus on the ‘no significant fault or negligence' aspect that allowed the quarter-milers to have a reduced sanction than the normal two-year ban imposed on steroid offenders.

The WADA had unsuccessfully argued that the athletes were negligent in consuming a supplement provided by a foreign coach purportedly bought from China. The defence had argued that in Indian conditions, no athlete could have defied a coach.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 5:30:15 PM |

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