In a first, the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) suspended an athlete on Monday for possessing a prohibited drug. A track and field athlete, who had competed at the 2014 Asian Games, has been provisionally suspended after a team of anti-doping officers seized vials of meldonium and syringes from the player’s room. Meldonium is the substance for which tennis player Maria Sharapova tested positive and was subsequently banned for 15 months.
NADA director general Naveen Agarwal said the athlete was notified on Monday and was placed under suspension with immediate effect. A NADA team had conducted surprise checks at the National Institute of Sport (NIS), Patiala, in April when the product was found in the athlete’s room. “During the raid, some products were seized from a few athletes and coaches, which we sent to the lab for testing. One of the products was found to be meldonium,” Agarwal told The Indian Express.
As per WADA rules, ‘athletes can receive sanctions for having possession of prohibited substances or methods, even if they have not taken the substance, or used the method.’ This is the first time NADA has suspended an athlete for possessing a drug. If found guilty, the punishment will be same as for a first doping offence — four-year suspension. Agarwal said the identity of the athlete will not be revealed for the time being. The athlete, who has competed at several international tournaments, does not have any past record of doping, as per NADA.
“The athlete has the option to appeal the decision. After that, a panel will be formed and hearing will begin,” Agarwal said, adding that the agency has the authority to search an athlete’s room and belongings during a raid. “During the hearing, we will know more about the case and whether anyone else is involved in it. As of now, this is the only case.” The World Anti Doping Agency added meldonium to the prohibited list last year. The drug increases blood flow, which improves exercise capacity in athletes.
Of late, the world and national anti-doping watchdogs have been closely monitoring the Indian athletes. Soon after NADA’s raid at the NIS, an Australian anti-doping team tested Indian wrestlers during the Asian Wrestling Championship in an attempt to catch potential cheats before next year’s Gold Quest Commonwealth Games.