Athletics

ATHLETICS

Sukanya Mishra gets relief
Wednesday 11, May 2011

Athlete Sukanya Mishra has been granted relief with a backdated suspension that will help her gain around 14 months while the appeals from two others, sprinter Suresh Sathya and long jumper Mohammad Ibrar, against their two-year suspensions, have been dismissed by the National Anti-Doping Appeal panel. The panel, headed by retired High Court Judge C. K. Mahajan, also kept in abeyance its judgement on two appeals by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), against the exoneration of weightlifter Pradeep Sharma, and athlete Sharadha Narayana, stating that the WADA's simultaneous appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the National panel were not maintainable. If the WADA withdrew its appeals with the CAS, the panel was prepared to “proceed to judgement” in both cases, the panel wrote in its order of May 3. Crucial difference Just as his arguments on several counts were rejected by the disciplinary panel, the appeal panel also rejected Sukanya's lawyer Sanjeev Kumar Dubey's contentions about rule violations. The crucial difference was about the commencement of the hammer thrower's suspension period. The Dinesh Dayal-headed disciplinary panel had come to the conclusion that there was no provisional suspension imposed by a competent agency which could have been automatically taken into consideration for any final award. Dubey was able to convince the Mahajan panel that there indeed was a provisional suspension from December 16, 2009 (her sample was collected on Nov 3, 2009), imposed by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). Thus, instead of her two-year suspension commencing from March 1, 2011, it will now run from December 16, 2009, the date on which the AFI Director, M.L. Dogra, telephonically informed the Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) about her “ban”, as claimed. “There are no special circumstances in this case to warrant any consideration for the early start of the period of ineligibility,” the Dayal panel had written. No ground The hearing panel found no ground to apply the rule related to delays “not attributable to the athlete” in taking a lenient view of the suspension commencement, since Dubey sought and obtained a number of adjournments and dragged the case on, prompting Dayal to comment once: “You have taken us round and round…” It is interesting to note that the AFI never provisionally suspended athletes turning up ‘positive' during those days. It does not do it even today for athletes who are tested by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). The AFI's stand hinged on the argument that a provisional hearing prior to a provisional suspension was mandatory. And that was within the purview of the NADA alone since it happened to be the testing authority. The NADA also did not have a provisional suspension procedure during that time, leaving many athletes and federations in limbo. Some of the athletes were barred from competition by their employers but that hardly mattered. Since there was a debate about this issue, The Hindu sought and received a clarification from the WADA on June 2, 2010. It read: “…the World Anti-Doping Code is clear on this matter. Under Article 7.5.1, the anti-doping organisation responsible for results management (in this case, the NADO if the NADO conducted the testing) has the responsibility to impose a provisional suspension when appropriate. The athlete must be given the opportunity to have a provisional hearing before the imposition of the provisional suspension or at least on a timely basis after imposition of the provisional suspension.” This put to rest speculations about whether the Railways or the Police or any such department had the power to provisionally suspend an athlete. The NADA soon started imposing provisional suspensions for all the tests conducted by it.

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