On August 1, when the director general of the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA), Naveen Agarwal, read out the ‘relevant portions’ of the findings of the disciplinary panel, he highlighted three key points that convinced them that Narsingh Yadav was not guilty of doping. Embarrassingly for NADA and its hearing panel, the CAS judgement, drawn from scientific evidence produced by sports medicine expert Christiane Ayotte, contradicts all these points.
Agarwal had said, that the estimated concentration of prohibited substances found in his urine sample on July 5 were much less than the sample collected on June 25. The second point that swayed the verdict in the wrestler’s favour, according to Agarwal, was Narsingh’s clean past.
It led the panel to believe that ‘he wasn’t a regular user of prohibited substance in any form’ and there was just a ‘one-time ingestion’, without his knowledge.
Lastly, the panel concluded that Narsingh took proper care of his food and water, which showed that the 27-year-old had followed the WADA mandate of securing his surroundings. Based on these observations, the NADA panel exonerated him.
However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) quashed all the suppositions and banned the wrestler for four years.
While reading excerpts from the panel’s verdict earlier this month, Agarwal said: “The claim of the athlete gets support by the reason that ingestion of prohibited substance in the present facts of matter appears to be one time.” While explaning the rationale, Agarwal said only the long-term metabolite of the drug methadianone was detected in his second urine sample, which was tested on July 5.
Going by clean past
Agarwal, who heads the body that should be policing drug offences, further defended Narsingh’s claim by saying: “It should also be kept in mind that in the past, till June 2, none of the samples collected from athlete were found positive. It is further unconceivable (sic) that one-time ingestion by the athlete would be of significant gain to him. Therefore, the panel is of the opinion that one-time ingestion by the athlete was not within his knowledge. and it strengthens the claim of the athlete of sabotage having taken place to him under the facts and circumstances.”
But that’s not entirely true. According to CAS report, this wasn’t just a one-time ingestion. Ayotte, the head of World Anti Doping Agency’s Montreal lab, said the concentration of the long term metabolite in the second sample was too high to be consistent with one-time ingestion.
“The expert evidence was that this was not a one-time ingestion (the reading of the long term metabolite in his second test was consistent with a second ingestion towards the end of June 2016),” the report states.
The panel, in its verdict as read out by Agarwal, also expressed its satisfaction about the “utmost caution exercised by the athlete in ensuring that no prohibited substance enters his body.” Agarwal added: “The athlete pleads that the only caution he failed to undertake is that he did not keep his eye on the amino drink during practice on June 23 and 24.”
Lack of proper evidence
CAS, however, dismissed these observations, which lacked proper evidence.
“He (Narsingh) cannot establish the source of the prohibited substance, he has merely claimed that his drink must have been spiked during a training session on June 23 or 24. there is no evidence relating to this… all in all, the panel found the sabotage(s) theory possible, but not probable and certainly not grounded in any real evidence…the panel was satisfied that the most likely explanation was that the athlete simply and intentionally ingested the prohibited substance in tablet form on more than one occasion.”