New Delhi: India`s best ever performance in the just-concluded Guangzhou Asian Games could have been marred by a dope scandal had the men`s 4x100m relay team not missed the bronze by a whisker as one of the runners Sathya Suresh tested positive for banned steroid nandrolone.
NADA Director General Rahul Bhatnagar told PTI that his agency had informed Athletics Federation of India about Suresh`s dope flunk on November 24, two days before he ran the relay race and the Indian team missed the bronze to Thailand by a hundreth of a second timing 39.10secs.
Had the relay team won the bronze, the quartet would have undergone mandatory dope tests and Suresh would have been caught in the Asian Games. That would have been a huge embarrassment for the country after the stupendous performance of Indian athletes.
"We have not taken the sample, it was taken by AFI on November 14. It reached our laboratory on November 15. The result was known on November 23. We informed the AFI the next day and Suresh was suspended provisionally for two years on the same day (November 24)," Bhatnagar said.
"We have not delayed the result process. We informed the AFI about the result on time. It`s up to them to withdraw or field an athlete in any competition," he said when asked about any possible delay on the part of NADA.
Bhatnagar said Suresh had not yet applied for `B` sample test and only after he does that a date for a hearing before a NADA panel would be fixed.
"Normally, seven days` time is given for a request for B sample testing. The date of hearing will be fixed after the `B` sample result or if he waives it," he said.
Interestingly, there was loss of crucial time in the first baton exchange between Rahamatulla Molla and Suresh, who ran in the second lap during the relay race on November 26 in Guangzhou, and had not it happen, India could have won the bronze. Shameer Mon and Mohd. Abdul Qureshi were the other two runners.
Suresh also ran in the 200m final on November 25 where he finished sixth. He qualified for the finals after winning one of the heats the earlier day.
AFI officials are not forthcoming why the federation collected the sample from Suresh only just a few days before the Asian Games.
"It is not only the NADA which can collect samples. Federations can take samples also and we did that," an AFI official said without giving further details.
Bhatnagar said NADA discourages taking samples just before major competitions as the results may come only after the end of the events.
Suresh`s personal coach Riaz said he has no clue how the dope flunk had happened and why his ward`s sample was taken just before the Asian Games.
"I don`t have any clue how it had happened. I don`t know why the AFI took the samples as Suresh has a clean record. He is very frank to me. I had spoken to him many times after the CWG and Asian Games and he has not told me about any drug or like this," Riaz said.
Suresh has been a member of the Core Group of athletes for the past two years for the preparations of the CWG and Asian Games. He was one of those athletes who had been sent by the AFI for training to Ukraine before the CWG.
The same Asian Games quartet of Rahamatulla Molla, Mohd Abdul Qureshi and Shameer Mon and Suresh won the 4x100m relay bronze in the CWG with a national record time.