Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu can finally compete. Although her return comes with an asterisk. The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) on Tuesday lifted the provisional suspension imposed on Chanu after her urine sample returned positive for a banned anabolic steroid following a dope test conducted in November 2017. She hasn’t been exonerated of doping charges, though. The IWF’s hearing panel is expected to arrive at a final decision in the coming weeks. But with no resolution in sight, and given the complex nature of the case, the IWF has allowed her to compete till the outcome of her dope saga.
“On the basis of the information at its disposal, the IWF has decided that the provisional suspension of the athlete shall be lifted as of today (22 January 2019). The IWF Hearing Panel will render its decision in the athlete’s case in due course,” the world body’s legal counsel Eva Nyirfa wrote in an email to Chanu and the Indian Weightlifting Federation.
That means Chanu can finally join the ongoing national camp and is free to compete in the first Olympic qualifying event that will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in February.
“We have already asked her to join the camp. She has been working hard on her own for the last few months so if she is fit, we will try to include her in the team for the tournament in Thailand. It is for her and the coach to decide,” Indian weightlifting federation secretary Sahdev Yadav said.
Last May, Chanu became the 13th Indian weightlifter to test positive in an IWF test since 2008. Her battle with the world body since then has been a long one. Chanu’s urine sample was collected on November 17, 2017 in an out-of-competition test before the World Championships. The result of the test, conducted in Las Vegas, were handed to the IWF on December 20. However, it was communicated to Chanu only in May.
The 25-year-old lifter has claimed innocence since day one and backed by the Indian body, she challenged the timelines and processes of the IWF. Soon after she was informed of the failed test, Chanu asked for her ‘B’ sample to be tested. That result came four months later in September. In between, the IWF admitted to an ‘administrative goof-up’, which further strengthened Chanu’s case.
According to reports, the serial number of Chanu’s sample collected on November 17 was 1599000. However, in the results section, the sample code mentioned was 1599176. The discrepancy was brought to IWF’s notice by India’s National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). In an email to NADA, the international body claimed it was an administrative mistake.
Chanu’s representatives appeared before an IWF hearing panel in Budapest on October 19 while she herself gave submissions on November 1. A source said they had demanded a copy of the sample’s chain of custody from the IWF to make sure all the guidelines were followed. “But till date, they haven’t given all the details. The IWF panel has realised that Sanjita has a genuine case. Hence, they have lifted her provisional suspension,” a source said.