Other Sports

A blow to ‘beauty aid’ theory

In a far-reaching decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has set aside the ruling of the National Anti-Doping Appeal panel (NADAP) in the Nirupama Devi doping case involving methylhexaneamine (MHA), and has slapped a two-year suspension on the Indian judoka.

The CAS decision, officially released on Wednesday, should help end the debate about beauty aids containing geranium oil triggering ‘positive’ results for MHA.

At the same time, it is a big blow to the hopes of at least 10 Indian sportspersons whose appeals in MHA cases are pending before the NADAP.

By sanctioning Nirupama Devi under the rules of the National Anti-Doping Agency, CAS has made it clear that mere claims without scientifically backed corroborative evidence would be of no use in doping cases.

Nirupama tested positive for MHA in January, 2012. She was given a ‘reprimand’ by the National Anti-Doping Disciplinary panel (NADDP) in July 2012. NADA appealed that decision, but the NADAP dismissed that appeal in September 2012. In November, WADA filed its appeal in CAS.

Nirupama had successfully argued in the hearings before the disciplinary and appeal panels that the use of VLCC beauty products had caused the MHA ‘positive’. The argument was based on the assumption that geranium oil, an ingredient of these products, contained MHA.

Since then various researchers have challenged the claim that geranium contains MHA, a point that was brought to the fore once again before the CAS.

The ‘beauty aid’ argument was not successfully used again in Indian MHA cases till swimmer Jyotsana Pansare sprung it during her appeal proceedings last September. She was granted a reduced sanction of one year by the appeal panel, a case that might yet see WADA’s intervention.

The CAS panel, which included Justice Mukul Mudgal (retd.), former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, noted in its order that between 2010 and 2012 there were ambiguities in the explanations regarding geranium oil and MHA — even those from WADA.

Yet, it ruled that Nirupama Devi had failed to establish that VLCC beauty products had caused the ‘positive’ test for MHA, and she had not even established that she had used VLCC products prior to testing positive.

Three other major points seemed to have contributed to the CAS decision. Firstly, VLCC wrote to WADA to confirm that their products in question did contain geranium but did not contain MHA.

It also stated that tests conducted on these products at an independent lab (Shri Ram Institute for Industrial Research, New Delhi) also turned up ‘negative’ for MHA.

Secondly, tests conducted by NADA on these products also turned up ‘negative’ — a point which it tried to bring in belatedly at the appeal stage but was rejected by the Justice C.K. Mahajan panel.

Thirdly, expert opinion given during the CAS hearing suggested that Nirupama’s urine sample had shown a specific gravity of 1.004 indicating considerably diluted urine.

If a scientifically-accepted formula was adopted to correct the specific gravity to 1.020, her MHA concentration, shown at 2,000ng/ml, would actually be 10,000ng/ml, which was “compatible with oral administration” of supplements containing MHA.

The argument about cutaneous absorption of MHA through the use of geranium oil-based products was rejected mainly on the account of high concentration levels of MHA and the impossibility of such levels being reflected in the urine sample after absorption through the skin.

The CAS panel which noted that the NADDP had not disqualified any of the Manipuri judoka’s results, not even in the competition in which she tested positive, disqualified all her results from January 2012 to decision date.

It also slapped the entire cost of CAS proceedings on Nirupama. It could have penalised her further by slapping part of the costs incurred by WADA in its appeal but did not do so, ruling that parties would bear their own legal costs.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 9:23:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/a-blow-to-beauty-aid-theory/article5401934.ece

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