The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) collecting a urine sample from an athlete after calling him to its headquarters in New Delhi for a hearing has been termed as ‘arbitrary’ and ‘unlawful’ by an anti-doping disciplinary panel.
The suspension imposed on powerlifter Raghavendra Goud was also set aside by the disciplinary panel earlier this month.
Goud, according to details in the order of the panel, was asked to travel to the national capital for an inquiry in March 2019.
He had earlier tested positive for anabolic steroids in January 2019 after an out of competition test at a national championship, but eight months later he was informed that his B-Sample (samples are split into ‘A’ and ‘B’) was negative.
In the interim, NADA summoned him for an inquiry to its headquarters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
However, no inquiry was conducted and the athlete was told to provide another urine sample. At this point, the result of the B-Sample collected during the National Classic Powerlifting Championships was still awaited.
“Nada has completely failed to point out any provision/article under the Anti-Doping Rules, 2015, which provides for holding any inquiry in relation to the dope test where the result/report of Sample B as requested/opted by the athlete was still awaited. This clearly shows that holding of any such inquiry was just a farce to call the Athlete to the NADA office in New Delhi, all the way from the state of Telangana at his own expenses to collect his sample for dope test when the report of Sample B collected from the athlete, while he participated in the National Classic Powerlifting Championships in 2018 was still awaited,” the panel’s order stated.
Criticising the anti-doping watchdog, the panel observed: “Such arbitrary exercise of powers by NADA is completely against the principal of Natural Justice and needs to be struck down.”
The panel, comprising chairman Sunny Choudhary, and members Jagbir Singh and Dr PSM Chandran, rejected NADA’s argument in Goud’s case that anti-doping rules allow them to test any athlete at any time and at any place.
“It is no doubt that article 5.5.2 empowers the NADA to test the athlete at any place but would that mean that the NADA is free to adopt arbitrary and illegal methods of collecting sample of the Athletes for dope testing by calling the athlete to their office in New Delhi on the false pretext of some inquiry and then subjecting them to dope testing? Such interpretation of Article 5.2.2 is against the basic tenor of Anti-doping Rules and the Principles of Natural Justice and Rule of the Law,” the order stated.
NADA argued that the burden is on the athlete to explain how the prohibited substance entered his body (A-Sample collected at NADA office had tested positive for anabolic steroids). “The Athlete was intentionally consuming the prohibited substances to enhance his performance which is a violation of Article 2.1 of the Anti-doping Rules, 2015,” NADA stated.
Hemant Phalpher, the lawyer who represented Goud, said NADA was trying to cover its own tracks.
“The athlete was subject to an earlier dope test by NADA. He had requested NADA for a B-Sample test in January 2019. NADA, instead of disclosing the results of B-Sample, arbitrarily and illegally summoned the athlete to come to the NADA office and forced him to give another sample. The intent, according to us, was to frame him in another dope test so the lab’s reputation is not hampered. After serving him another notice of charge, NADA sent him the results of the B-Sample which was negative as late as in August 2020. (Following the order) The athlete has got justice,” Phalpher said.
Sept 2018: Powerlifter Goud’s samples collected at the National Classic Powerlifting Championships
Jan 2019: Goud’s A-Sample returns adverse analytical finding for anabolic steroids, results of B-Sample awaited.
March 2019: NADA summons Goud for a hearing related to samples collected at championships. No hearing is conducted, instead his sample is collected at NADA office.
May 2019: Goud informed about A-Sample (collected at NADA office) testing positive.
August 2019: B-Sample (collected during National Classic championships) tests negative. Nada informs the athlete of charges being withdrawn.
August 2020: Athlete, through lawyer, files objection to being summoned to NADA office on pretext of hearing but instead his sample being collected.
Jan 2021: Disciplinary panels set aside Goud’s suspension and criticises NADA for ‘arbitrary’ and ‘unlawful’ exercise of powers.