M A I N   N E W S

Seven athletes banned for doping
M.S. Unnikrishnan/TNS

New Delhi, December 23
The government today banned six top women athletes for one-year, after they were found guilty of doping. Also banned was long-jumper Harikrishanan Muraleedharan, the seventh athlete in the list, but his ban will last two years. The banned women athletes are Ashwini Akkunji, Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose, Mary Tina Thomas, Priyanka Panwar and Juana Murmu. Akkunji was a member of the gold-winning Indian 4x400 metres relay team at the Delhi Commonwealth Games and a double gold medallist in the Asian Games (400m hurdles and 4x400m relay).

The athletes tested positive for banned substances in out-of-competition tests conducted earlier this year and the decision to impose a one-year ban was announced by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) here today.

Though the athletes were not present when NADA announced the decision at its headquarters, they can appeal against the bans to the NADA Appellate Panel. But the athletes’ lawyers said they would go through the judgement carefully before deciding on going for appeal.

NADA panel chief Dinesh Dayal said they found all the athletes “guilty of doping violations under Clause 2.1 of the Anti-Doping Rule”.

The date of suspension will begin today, but Dayal noted that any period under provisional suspension shall be credited in the athletes’ penalty period, which is one year.

He said a reduced penalty was on account of the fact that the athletes were not found guilty of intentionally taking banned substances. The maximum suspension for first-time violators is two years.

Dayal added that the panel did not find any significant fault on part of these athletes on how the substances entered their bodies, “and they will get reduced penalty under Clause 10.5.2 NADA rule”. He added that two athletes, Tiana and Murmu, were tested twice in May and June and they could not be held guilty on two counts. NADA Director-General Rahul Bhatnagar said the one-year sanction will commence from the dates of provisional suspension by NADA.

The Olympic qualification period ends on July 2 and the last qualifying event is scheduled for June 29 and 30. These athletes need a reinstatement test after their ban period is over. But the Athletics Federation of India said the banned athletes have only a slim chance of making it to London if their replacements manage to qualify for the Olympics, as the final say of whom to field in the Olympics rests with the AFI.

Bhatnagar said under the NADA rules, there will be only one reinstatement test “which can be done the day after their ban period ends”.

These seven athletes were among the eight who tested positive, following which the Sports Ministry had appointed Justice Mukul Mudgal, a retired chief justice of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, as a one-member committee to enquire into all the aspects of the issues relating to prevalence of doping in the country. Though Justice Mudgal has submitted his report to the Sports Ministry, its contents have not yet been made public.

The six women athletes had blamed Ukrainian coach Yuri Ogrodnik after testing positive for anabolic steroid Methandienone, as they claimed that the substances had probably entered their system through the food supplements given to them by the foreign coach. Though Ogrodnik was sacked by Sports Minister Ajay Maken following the scandal, the coach had professed his innocence.

“I have been set up, and this is an attempt to tarnish my reputation,” he had said before leaving India.





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