Days after leading cager Satnam Singh was suspended for failing a dope test, it has emerged that Asian and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist shooter Ravi Kumar is staring at a lengthy ban for testing positive for a prohibited substance earlier this year. The 29-year-old rifle shooter flunked a dope test after returning from the Munich World Cup. He tested positive for a beta-blocker, according to a National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) official. NADA’s disciplinary panel conducted a hearing in Kumar’s case last week and a decision is imminent.
Kumar, like Satnam, has tested positive for a drug that falls under the ‘specified substance’ category of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which means he could escape with a lenient sanction and not the four-year ban imposed otherwise. WADA defines prohibited substances as ‘specified’ and ‘non-specified’ to ‘recognise that it is possible for a substance to enter an athlete’s body inadvertently.’
It is learnt that the anti-doping sleuths collected Kumar’s urine sample during the selection trials at Delhi’s Karni Singh Shooting Range in June. After the NADA intimated its decision, Kumar opted for provisional suspension. Although Kumar, a national team regular, has not been a part of the squad after the Munich World Cup, a National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) official said he continued taking part in selection trials after he received a ‘no-objection’ from NADA.
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“Since it was a specified substance, he was given the exemption to compete domestically but with a rider that even if he finishes in the top three at the trials, he will not be picked for the Indian team,” the official said.
During his hearing, Kumar is believed to have defended himself by saying that the drug ‘inadvertently’ entered his body after he took a medicine for migraine. Blocking agents generally reduce blood pressure, which comes in handy for precision sports like shooting where a steady hand is crucial for an accurate shot.
Kumar has won medals for India at World Cups and Asian Championships, apart from multi-discipline games. He, however, could not book a quota for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Divyansh Panwar and Deepak Kumar have earned two quotas – the maximum a country can earn – for the Games.
Dope scandals very disturbing: Sports Minister
After NADA revealed that more than 150 athletes have failed dope tests in India this year, sports minister Kiren Rijiju said on Tuesday that the scandals are ‘very disturbing’. “I am not saying all dope offenders took prohibited substances unintentionally, some take intentionally but there are others who take them without knowing the contents of drugs,” Rijiju, who was speaking at a function where actor Suniel Shetty was named NADA’s brand ambassador, said. “That’s why there is the need to spread awareness about clean sports, about being careful in what you take in as supplements, etc. Besides conducting an aggressive campaign against intentional doping, there is also a need to impart awareness to those who don’t have intentions to cheat but were found doping because of lack of knowledge.”
Rijiju’s remarks assume significance as doping offences this year have doubled compared to 2018. As per NADA, 156 athletes in 19 sports – including Olympic disciplines like athletics, shooting, boxing and weightlifting – have failed dope tests. NADA director general Navin Agarwal said the country’s Tokyo-bound athletes will be under constant scrutiny and will be tested multiple times before the Games.