New Delhi: The methylhexaneamine dope scandal that rocked the 2010 Commonwealth Games continues to drag with the hearing into the case adjourned till September 19 after the lawyer representing the 11 implicated athletes sought to point out procedural lapses by the National Dope Testing Laboratory.
The counsel for the athletes, R K Anand, argued that the NDTL had not followed procedure as it had not maintained a clear internal and external chain of custody of the urine samples and trashed the laboratory for lack of documentation as is required under World Anti-Doping Agency rules.
At one time, the NADA Disciplinary Panel head Dinesh Dayal, a retired District Judge, seemed to concede that there was lack of documentation at the laboratory when Anand quoted the WADA and NADA Rule Book.
Eleven athletes -- swimmers Richa Mishra, Amar Muralidharan and Jyotsna Pansare, wrestlers Rajeev Tomar, Rahul Mann, Sumeet, Joginder, Mausam Khatri and Gursharanpreet Kaur and athletes Saurabh Vij and Akash Antil -- tested positive for methylhexaneamine stimulant just before the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Anand contended that in the absence of a logbook at the NDTL for the refrigerator and cold storage, anybody can open and seal any sample.
"Whenever the sample is taken out or opened or sealed, there should be a signature each time in a logbook maintained. But there is no such logbook for refrigerator and cold storage at the NDTL. Anybody can go and take out the sample," he contended.
"There should be control and accountability of the samples. If the integrity of the sample is not maintained, it (the case) is liable to be dismissed," he said, citing international cases.
Dayal admitted that only the external chain of custody form and covering letter were there at the NDTL to which Anand retorted that not having the documents did not mean that they should not be maintained.
"You are a WADA-accredited Laboratory and you have to maintain the integrity of the sample and there should be clear chain of internal and external custody," Anand said.
He also maintained that the method used to calculate the retention time (RT) of urine samples was wrong and the figures "fabricated and planted".
"The chart signed by the NDTL Scientific Director is for one athlete and the name is for another. I can prove the sample is for somebody and the chart for another," he argued.
He said the laboratory did not know which internal procedure it should use for testing.
"The NDTL guidelines at one place say that only Screening One procedure should be used for detecting methylhexaneamine and at another place say Screening Eight procedure can also be used for methylhexaneamine test. If a rule says only one procedure should be used for a test then how is it that another procedure can also be used?" he asked.
"The laboratory does not know what internal procedure should be used. Moreover, there were discrepancies in the figures of the RT for isomer one and two testing in the columns of same athlete in several document pages provided by NDTL" he said.
"The same mistake appeared in more than 20 pages. The Scientific Officer says that the mistakes were inadvertently made as she had to prepare them in a rush," he said.
He showed that the detailed documentation of the internal and external chain of custody and proper maintenance of charts was there in another case regarding the doping of six top women 400 metre runners, including double Asian Games gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji.
Dayal said since the case involving Akkunji was after the methylhexaneamine case, some improvements might have been made by the NDTL, to which Anand retorted that in that case the case involving his clients should be dismissed.
"There was proper documentation and proper chain of custody in this case (involving Akkunji). You (NDTL) are improving but my case will have to be dismissed as there was no proper documentation," he said.
Dayal said he will need another three days of hearing before writing the judgement in the case and posted the matter for September 19. Dayal will not be available from June 15 till the end of August.