Cager Satnam Singh Bhamara, who is serving a provisional suspension for failing a dope test, has disputed the charges against him and insisted he is a ‘clean competitor and has always played basketball fairly.’
The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) collected Bhamara’s urine sample during a training camp in Bangalore on August 17. The report received from the anti-doping laboratory in Qatar – where the sample was analysed – on October 31 confirmed the presence of Higenamine, a beta-2 agonist, which allows the lungs to take in more oxygen.
Bhamara, 23, claimed he had ‘voluntarily’ accepted the provisional suspension, instead of NADA imposing it on him, after the notice of the failed test was communicated to him on November 11. The suspension period, according to NADA, began on November 19.
“Mr. Bhamara is disputing the said charge and has requested a hearing before the NADA Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel [ADDP] in order to put forth his case,” the player said in a statement released by his management agency.
The 7-foot-2-inch centre was originally a part of the Indian team that is currently in Kathmandu for the South Asian Games, which began on December 1. However, he pulled out at the last minute citing personal reasons. India eventually got its campaign underway without him on Friday. The Basketball Federation of India claimed they were unaware of the failed test.
Higenamine, the substance detected in Bhamara’s sample, has been on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited substance list since 2017. It is found in a variety of plant sources and, of late, has been used by the supplement industry (mostly pre-workout, energy or weight-loss products) as a substitute for performance enhancing drugs like dimethylamylamine (DMAA) and stimulants such as ephedrine.
However, it falls under the ‘specified substance’ category of the WADA, which means Bhamara could escape with a lenient sanction and not the four-year ban imposed otherwise. WADA defines prohibited substances as ‘specified’ and ‘non-specified’ to ‘recognize that it is possible for a substance to enter an athlete’s body inadvertently.’ “(It)… potentially allows, under defined conditions, for a greater reduction of a sanction when an athlete tests positive for that particular substance,” according to WADA.
Bhamara said he was ‘hopeful’ that NADA’s disciplinary panel will dispense the case within the stipulated 90-day period. “Mr. Bhamara has entrusted his legal representatives at Krida Legal, to handle the adjudicatory process before NADA and Mr. Bhamara is hopeful that his case is adjudicated upon and dispensed with by ADDP, within a period of ninety (90) days from the date of conclusion of result management process, as is mandated under the NADA Anti-Doping Rules, 2015,” the statement added.
Bhamara has been a trailblazer in Indian basketball after he created history in 2015 when he was picked in the NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks; the first Indian-born player to achieve that.
He went on to play the next two years in the Development League with Dallas Mavericks’ affiliate team Texas Legends. After returning to India for a year to focus on the national team, he once again created history in September 2018 by becoming the first India-born player to compete in the National Basketball League of Canada after signing a deal with St John’s Edge.