Banned athletes cannot feign ignorance, suggest panel findings
New Delhi: The Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel, which on Friday handed one-year bans to India`s six top women athletes, in its findings concluded that the bottles of `Ginseng Kinapi Pil` given by sacked coach Yuri Ogorodnik were contaminated and contained banned substances.
The three-member panel, headed by retired district judge Dinesh Dayal, found out that the four bottles of contaminated food supplement (Ginseng), procured by Ukrainian coach Ogorodnik from the Chinese market during the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, contained Methandienone and Stanozolol.
The analytical findings in the samples of the athletes were a result of Ginseng Pil given to them by Ogorodnik with a written food supplement programme starting May 10, 2011. The athletes had full faith in the coach, who had been working since 1999 and did not verify the food supplement from the manufacturer before ingesting it, the findings suggested.
Seven top Indian athletes, including Asian Games double gold-medallist Ashwini Akkunji, were today handed bans for flunking dope tests earlier this year, virtually ending their chances of participating in the London Olympics next year.
The seven athletes include six quartermilers – Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose, Mary Tiana Thomas, Priyanka Pawar, Jauna Murmu and Akkunji -- and long jumper Harikrishanan Muraleedharan -- who flunked dope tests for banned steroids.
While the six women athletes have been banned for a year, Muraleedharan has been slapped with a two-year ban.
The panel ruled out that NADA`s Anti-Doping policies adopt the rule of strict liability involving the presence of a prohibited substance and, under the liability principle, an athlete is responsible whenever a prohibited substance is found in sample.
The violation occurs whether or not the athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or was negligent or otherwise at fault. If the positive sample came from an in-competition test, the results of that competition are automatically invalidated.
However, the athlete then has the possibility to avoid or reduce sanctions if the athlete can demonstrate that he or she was not at fault or significant fault or in certain circumstances did not intend to enhance his or her sport performance.
Keeping in mind these liability principles, the panel concluded that anti-doping rule violation has been established with respect to all these athletes.
The panel, giving detailed analysis of the athlete`s degree of fault in establishing the case, suggested that Ogorodnik gave the athletes, who were training at NIS Patiala at that time, a written food supplement programme.
The coach had been appointed by the SAI and was not a coach appointed by the athletes. However, in the context of the circumstances of these athletes, it has to be borne in mind that SAI used to provide them with food supplements.
The athletes could not be expected to verify such supplements provided to them by the authority responsible for sports in the country.
The findings further added that Ogorodnik was appointed by the SAI and the athletes had been training under his guidance for several years. Each of these athletes had won several medals training under this coach and had been tested for dope several times.
Ogorodnik was a part of SAI and it was natural for the athletes to have unflinching faith and confidence in the coach. It has been shown that the athletes had been taking Ginseng as a food supplement under earlier programmes given to them by Ogorodnik.
Ginseng was not a new supplement and when Ogorodnik gave the bottles of food supplement to the athletes, they had no occasion to suspect that these could be contaminated as they had been purchased by their coach.
It may be said that since the athletes knew that the supplements had been purchased from the open market it was their duty to verify the same from the manufacturer.
The panel, therefore, was of the view that the athletes had been able to establish how the prohibited substance entered their body and that they bear no significant fault or negligence and were entitled a reduction in the period of ineligibility under Article 10.5.2. of the rules.
The two athletes, Jauna Murmu and Tiana Mary Thomas, who were tested twice during May and June 2011, cannot be held guilty of two violations as the adverse analytical findings in both the tests conducted on them were the result of the ingestion of the same supplement.