Seema doping case: stand-off continues

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The stand-off between the Union Sports Ministry and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) over the Seema Antil doping episode has continued over the past few days and it threatens to boil over in Doha right in the midst of the Asian Games.

The athletics programme starts on Thursday while Seema's event, discus throw, is scheduled for December 11. The AFI has tentatively arranged for her departure from here on Friday if everything could be sorted out by then.

The ministry, even while being aware that follow-up formalities are to be gone through in a doping case, has rightly stuck to the argument that Seema cannot be part of an official Indian contingent when a `positive' has been reported. She was yet to seek the `B' sample test, according to sources.

Irrespective of the eventual disciplinary action to be taken by the AFI, the ministry is not prepared to approve of Seema's participation even if she clears a "second test" at the Dope Control Centre (DCC) here. Such a test in itself would be unethical and highly objectionable in the eyes of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) but it cannot be ruled out.

The stand being taken by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) would be keenly awaited in case Seema was to be fielded in the Doha Games.

"In case the ministry informs us that an athlete has returned a positive test, we will not allow such an athlete to be fielded," said a senior IOA official when contacted in Doha on Wednesday.

The dope clouds gathering around the Indian athletics team can get darker in the coming days since two unspecified woman relay runners had also come under the `suspect' category after being reported for abnormal levels of an endogenous steroid, it is learnt. Their cases apparently require further confirmation.

Seema tested positive in a urine sample collected in Delhi before a batch of the Indian athletics team left for Muscat, Oman, for training in the second week of November. She was asked to return from Muscat following the `positive' report.

Though there has been speculation that she had tested positive for an endogenous steroid, it is learnt that Seema tested positive for 3'OH-stanozolol, a derivative of stanozolol, an exogenous (external origin) steroid.

If the doping charge is proved, this will be Seema's second offence, she having tested positive for stimulant pseudoephedrine at the World junior championships in Santiago, Chile, in 2000. At this point, the AFI is not even admitting that there had been a positive case, but it would be interesting to note what sanction an athlete could face in a situation like this.

Normally a second offence attracts a life ban. But if one offence happens to be for a "specified substance" (under present rules it attracts a minimum of public warning and disqualification and a maximum of one-year suspension for a first-time offence) then the sanction for a second violation (steroid) will be a minimum of two years and a maximum of three years. Pseudoephedrine is in the `specified substance' list at the moment. It was under a similar category in 2000 when it attracted a public warning and disqualification without suspension. Much will depend on how the AFI proceeds in the matter.