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WADA cites previous cases to counter athletes’ explanation

Rejecting the suspended Indian 400m women runners' alibi that they consumed contaminated capsules given by the coach,the World Anti-Doping Agency has cited precedents where athletes

Written by Nihal Koshie | New Delhi | Published: February 10, 2012 1:47:05 am

Rejecting the suspended Indian 400m women runners’ alibi that they consumed contaminated capsules given by the coach,the World Anti-Doping Agency has cited precedents where athletes took elaborate precautions while taking a nutritional supplement and,therefore,got a lesser sentence as they bore ‘no significant fault or negligence’ for failing dope tests.

The National Anti-Doping Agency’s Disciplinary Panel had imposed a reduced one-year sanction on,among others,Ashwini AC,Priyanka Panwar,Tiana Mary Thomas and Sini Jose after it was established that the Ginseng supplement purchased by coach Yuri Orgorodnik at the Asian Games village in Guangzhou and given to the athletes was contaminated with methandienone and stanozolol — both banned anabolic steroids.

But,WADA,which has appealed that the ban be increased to two years,said the quartet made absolutely no effort to check if the capsules were free of prohibited substances.

WADA pointed out that with regard to nutritional supplements,the highest court of appeal in sport,has always been reluctant to accept a plea of ‘no significant fault or negligence’,especially given the numerous warnings of well-known risks attached to the use of such products.

A CAS in point

Austrian skier Hans Knauss had his 18-month ban,sanctioned by the International Ski Federation,upheld by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). Knauss had tested positive for nandrolone,a banned anabolic steroid,and the consumption of nutritional supplement was given as the reason.

CAS,in 2005,noted that the appellant (Knauss) did ‘less rather than more’ that could be expected of him to minimise the risk associated with nutritional supplements. The verdict against Knauss’ appeal for a reduced sentence was given,though Knauss had made a direct inquiry with the distributor about the contents of the product.

In another case,USA swimmer Jessica Hardy had to withdraw from the 2008 Olympic trials following a positive drug test. She was banned from competing for a year by the American Arbitration Association. WADA filed an appeal seeking the ban to be doubled to two years. However,CAS upheld the one-year ban,observing that the swimmer had ‘shown good faith’ as she had checked with the manufacturer about the supplement’s purity.

WADA said that in the Indian athletes’ case,passive and unquestioning obedience to the instructions of a medically unqualified coach (Yuri Ogorodnik) couldn’t be accepted.

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