A delay in analysing Gomathi Marimuthu’s urine sample allowed her to compete at the Asian Championship in Doha last month, which ultimately led to her being stripped of the 800m gold medal following a failed dope test. The National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) collected Gomathi’s urine sample after she won gold at the Federation Cup that was held in Patiala from March 15 to 18.
Based on her performance there, Gomathi was included in the Indian team for the continental championship that was held from April 21 to 24. On April 22, the 30-year-old, clocked 2 minutes and 2.70 seconds to win the gold.
After her return, however, she was informed that her ‘A’ sample from the test conducted during the Federation Cup had returned positive. Days later, it emerged that she had failed a dope test following her Asian Championship triumph as well.
In both cases, Gomathi has tested positive for 19-norandrosterone, a metabolite of banned steroid nandrolone. According to the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) rules, test results have to be reported within 10 working days of collecting the samples.
However, NADA director general Navin Agarwal said they received a report from the National Dope Test Laboratory (NDTL) on May 14 and she was immediately placed under provisional suspension.
How nandrolone helps athletes
19-norandrosterone, a metabolite of banned anabolic steroid nandrolone, which has been banned for 30-odd years. The drug can be injected into the body through a needle or can be taken as a pill or in supplements. Nandrolone can improve an athlete’s ability to train harder. It also reduces tiredness, which means athletes can recover quicker from a tough training session. The drug also helps the body to build muscle by producing more proteins, which helps in development of muscle.
Out of the 74 samples (49 urine, 25 blood) collected by NADA at the Federation Cup only one has returned a positive test. Bound by anti-doping regulations, Agarwal did not disclose the name of the athlete who tested positive. “One athlete was tested in Patiala and she was found positive. Consequently, she was placed under provisional suspension from May 14.
Later on, her sample from Doha also returned positive and the IAAF suspended her on May 18,” Agarwal told The Indian Express. “Normally, it should take 10 days for the result to be declared but at times some confirmatory tests are required. The reason (for delay) should be asked to NDTL.” NDTL officials could not be reached for comments.
The AFI, in the past, has dreaded a scenario wherein an Indian athlete using performance-enhancing substances is tested in tournaments abroad and returns positive.
A senior federation said: “The athlete was travelling for an international competition. The NDTL should have given the result within 10 days. Because they delayed the results, India has had to face shame in the international arena. It is not Gomathi’s fault that she participated because when the team left, there was no indication that she had tested positive.”