One of the cases of an athlete failing a dope test during the Olympic year which has gone under the radar is of promising discus thrower Arjun, a youth Olympics silver medallist. What makes Arjun’s case unique is that his sample was tested at the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Cologne. This after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) asked for samples to be transported from the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) in New Delhi to Cologne.
Arjun’s is perhaps the first case of an Indian sportsperson’s sample testing positive in a foreign lab after it returned a negative result at home. The initial test was conducted at NDTL in New Delhi after samples of the athlete were collected during the first Indian Grand Prix on April 24 last year. The NDTL testing provided a negative report.
The IAAF requested for the samples — a second was collected on April 30 — to be sent to the Cologne laboratory on June 22 last year. The first sample returned positive for androsterone and testosterone following analysis at the Cologne laboratory. The laboratory in Cologne had conducted isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) testing, which helps determine if a steroid is of exogenous (outside the body) origin.
The IAAF’s athletics integrity unit did not comment on whether the reason for requesting for the transferring of this particular athlete’s sample to Cologne followed intelligence gathering. “As this is a pending case, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is unable to comment at this time,” the AIU said in an email reply. The fact that Arjun’s samples were collected at a national championships but attracted the attention of the IAAF indicates the Indian was being closely monitored.
Arjun had won silver at the 2010 Youth Olympics in the discus throw but in 2015, on the advice of foreign coach Yuri Minkov, he also dabbled in shot put.
During a hearing of the anti-doping disciplinary panel last week Arjun’s lawyer argued that despite requesting NDTL for the chain of custody of the sample — from the time it was resealed after testing in Delhi till it reached Cologne – the same had not been furnished yet. “NDTL has not provided vital documents (chain of custody) and it raises serious doubts on the credibility of the sample and whether it was handled and stored as per international standards of testing,” Arjun’s lawyer Hemant Raj Phalpher said.
The anti-doping disciplinary panel has directed NDTL to provide the relevant documents. A number of reputed athletes have tested positive over the past year, including wrestler Narsingh Yadav, sprinter Dharambir Singh, 400 metres runner Priyanka Panwar and shot putters Inderjeet Singh and Manpreet Kaur. Manpreet had won gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar in July but test results have shown that she had failed dope tests at four different competitions.