THE ruling by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) that led to a four-year ban on Narsingh Yadav on doping charges is a stinging indictment of the manner in which a hearing panel set up by India’s National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) cleared the wrestler for the Olympic Games in Rio by accepting his contention that he was a victim of “sabotage”.
The detailed report of the CAS hearing, made public on Monday, concluded that Narsingh “was doping, not that he is a victim of sabotage”. The three-member CAS panel also observed that Narsingh had “intentionally ingested the prohibited substance in tablet form on more than one occasion”.
The panel said that the high test readings suggest that the banned substance was because of consuming “one or two tablets of methandienone rather than from a drink where the powder had been mixed with water”, as Narsingh had claimed before the NADA panel.
Dismissing the sabotage theory of Narsingh and his battery of lawyers, which was aggressively backed by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brijbhushan Saran and some top politicians, CAS ruled: “The panel found (the) sabotage theory possible, but not probable, and certainly not grounded in any real evidence.”
CAS’s findings are in complete contrast to what the NADA panel had concluded.
On August 1, NADA director general Naveen Agarwal announced that its three-member disciplinary panel had exonerated Narsingh on the basis of his clean past and the varying quantity of the drug found in the two samples that were collected from him on June 25 and July 5. And, the panel said, there was no fault of the wrestler while taking care of his food and water.
Agarwal supported the sabotage theory, saying the NADA panel was convinced about it.
In fact, the sabotage theory started gaining momentum even before the NADA panel’s hearing in Narsingh’s case began. A day after the wrestler was found guilty of doping, the WFI chief claimed that he had briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the situation and sought a quick resolution.
Saran even claimed there was “evidence” that Narsingh was being framed. This was much before Haryana police could act on the allegations made by the Mumbai-based wrestler in his FIR.
Meanwhile, in a letter to Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis wrote: “There is a widespread belief that he (Narsingh) has been tricked or framed by some vested interests, however it’s difficult to substantiate the same without proper investigation.”
The complete findings of the NADA hearing panel, which was held behind closed doors, has not yet been made public. Even Narsingh’s lawyer received the NADA panel’s order only on Monday, while the lawyer who represented NADA is yet to obtain it.
During the CAS hearing last week, NADA — which ideally should play the role of prosecutor — questioned the jurisdiction of the sports court’s ad hoc panel, which was set up primarily for the Rio Olympics. India’s anti-doping watchdog argued that it should have been allowed to lodge an appeal before the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), which had taken the case to CAS, and that the dope test on Narsingh had nothing to do with the Rio Games.
But WADA dismissed its arguments, noting that NADA could have appealed first but did not do so before August 13, when the global agency made its plea to CAS. It also pointed out that the NADA panel’s final decision on August 1 gave Narsingh the green signal to participate in the Rio Games, which clearly linked it to the Olympics.
This was NADA’s only point of contention during the entire hearing. NADA said it did not appeal Narsingh’s exoneration by its panel because it was waiting for the police investigation to be completed, according to its director general Naveen Agarwal. “There was an ongoing police investigation and we were waiting for the outcome before taking a decision to go for an appeal or not,” Agarwal said on Monday.
During the hearing, CAS relied largely on scientific evidence provided by sports medicine expert Christiane Ayotte, who analysed the results of the two tests conducted on Narsingh and one on his roommate Sandeep Yadav, who tested positive for the same substance, too. The analysis was performed at a WADA-accredited laboratory in Cologne, using the same instruments that are used at the National Dope Testing Laboratory in Delhi.
Ayotte noted that there were “at least 12 to 20 hours difference between the ingestion of the prohibited substance” by Narsingh and Sandeep, thus discrediting the theory that both had their drinks spiked during the same training session. Narsingh’s primary defence to suggest sabotage was the failed dope test of his roommate.
WADA, meanwhile, has said that in case, any evidence in relation to the sabotage theory is “rendered at a later stage by a criminal court in India, then the decision could be reviewed by the Supreme Court in Switzerland”, where CAS is based.
NADA on the mat
Powder in daal
NADA: Member of rival Sushil Kumar’s entourage, Jithesh, spiked Narsingh’s daal
CAS: Presence of substance because of methandienone tablets and not spiked daal
NADA: Energy drink contaminated by Jithesh
CAS: Methandienone doesn’t dissolve, would have been visible.
NADA: Drinks of both athletes spiked similarly
CAS: 12-20 hours difference between ingestion by Narsingh, his room-mate