NADA fails to establish there is no methylhexaneamine tablet

The National Anti-Doping Appeal panel (NADAP) has triggered a debate by accepting the contention of a wrestler that he was prescribed ‘methylhexaneamine (MHA) tablets’ and his positive test in March, 2012 was caused by that ‘medicine’ which he used on medical advice.

Haryana wrestler Sombir’s reprieve may not matter much in terms of a curtailed sanction since he gained only a little over two months at the time of the decision last month. However, it does raise serious questions, not just over the claims of the athlete about a medicine that the world has not known for more than 30 years but also about the role of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in investigating and presenting a case before a hearing panel.

The contention of the wrestler that he was advised use of ‘tablet Methylhexaneamine’ by a Government doctor at a dispensary at Baraut, Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, was rejected by the disciplinary panel in September, 2012.

“This prescription appears to be fake in as much as there was no disclosure about this prescription earlier. The medicines prescribed are not on the list of government approved medicines which can be prescribed by a Government doctor,” wrote the disciplinary panel in its order while imposing a two-year suspension on the wrestler.

The wrestler had submitted two prescriptions to the disciplinary panel on different dates, the second one, filed nearly two months after the first, containing the drugs (MHA and mephentermine) for which he tested positive.

The appeal panel, headed by Justice (retd) M. L. Varma, in contrast, was satisfied that by the mere production of a medical prescription the athlete had established how the banned substances got into his system.

No attempt made

It said that NADA did not make an attempt to verify the authenticity of the prescription and on being asked it was explained that it was not NADA’s duty to do so!

NADA had more than a year at its disposal to at least check the veracity of the prescription if it was interested in an investigation of its own.

NADA also could not get information about ‘MHA medicines’ from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), though it tried once the appeal came up. The NADAP was critical of NADA’s inability to pursue the matter promptly with the CDSCO.

The disciplinary panel, in its order, stated that even if the athlete had used the medicines for a course that would have ended in the first week of March, 2012, as claimed, these would not have shown up in his urine sample collected on March 27, 2012.

According to available information, the only company that produced an MHA-based nasal decongestant, that too only in inhaler form, in the 1940s discontinued its production in the 1980s. At least since 2009, MHA has been an ingredient of several nutritional supplements.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in response to a query from The Hindu, in September, 2010, had written to state that “to its knowledge MHA had not been sold as a medicine” since the 1970s anywhere in the world.

Surprisingly, the appeal panel did not go into the question of the presence of mephentermine, another stimulant, in the athlete’s urine sample. Being a ‘non-specified stimulant’, Article 10.4 (to reduce sanction) cannot be applied for this drug.

No mention

The appeal panel also does not mention the fact that the wrestler had failed to make a mention of MHA and mephentermine in his dope control form while listing a few other medicines, a fact that did not escape the attention of the disciplinary panel headed by Dinesh Dayal.

In two well-publicised cases of steroid use by athletes in India (weightlifter Pradeep Sharma and athlete Sharadha Narayana), in 2011, the NADAP, then under Justice (retd.) C. K. Mahajan, had upheld appeals from the WADA and imposed two-year sanctions explaining that athletes cannot hide behind the “ignorance” of their doctors about anti-doping rules.

Both Sharma and Sharadha were prescribed steroids for “legitimate” medical requirements, but learnt that relief could only have been gained by obtaining a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 6:06:30 PM |

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