The husband of a Commonwealth Games athlete has been blacklisted by an anti-doping panel for allegedly supplying Meldonium – a banned substance that improves endurance – to the country’s top decathlete, 25-year-old Jagtar Singh.
In a recent order, the Anti-Doping Appeal Panel blacklisted the unidentified athlete’s husband, Puneet, and another drug supplier, Sunny Malik, based on the findings of several anti-drug government agencies. The order banned the two from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi and asked the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to warn athletes about them.
The panel’s order was based on information provided by Jagtar, who was a member of the Indian team for the Asian Athletics Championships in 2017 before his name was withdrawn after he tested positive for Meldonium. The banned substance gained notoriety worldwide three years ago in the dope case involving tennis star Maria Sharapova.
“In view of the information disclosed by the athlete, we also direct NADA to blacklist and prohibit the entry of Mr Puneet and Mr Sunny Malik in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi and any other stadium/facility where national or international sporting activity takes place,” stated the order by the panel, headed by senior advocate of the Supreme Court Vibha Datta Makhija.
“We also direct NADA to issue appropriate and prominent warning to be affixed on notice boards/websites of NADA and all sporting stadiums/facilities warning athletes and other persons about the discovery of prohibited substances from Mr Puneet and Mr Sunny Malik and/or the risk of procuring any supplies from them,” it said.
Last month, Jagtar got his doping ban reduced from four years to two after “providing substantial assistance” that helped authorities bust a chain of illegal performance-enhancing drugs suppliers that mostly operated around the Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium, the capital’s athletics hub. The panel’s report refers to Puneet’s wife as a “Commonwealth Games athlete”.
According to Jagtar’s submission before the panel, Puneet was allegedly a regular supplement supplier at the stadium and had allegedly given him with “injectable substances” with labels in a foreign language (Russian).
Based on information provided by Jagtar, drug inspectors of the Central Drugs and Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and the Delhi government, and officers of NADA apprehended Malik from the Jungpura Metro station. They allegedly recovered prohibited substances, including testosterone, an anabolic steroid.
In 2016, Sharapova was banned for two years after testing positive for Meldonium, a drug largely manufactured in Latvia and distributed in Baltic countries and Russia. The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) added Meldonium to its prohibited list in January 1, 2016.
For long, there have been whispers in track-and-field circles that some Indian athletes who train abroad act as carriers of banned drugs and sell it to others with a help of a syndicate.
Jagtar’s lawyer said the decathlete had gone out of the way to help drug control officers curb the menace of illegal substances. “No athlete in India has ever gone this far to assist NADA in discovering and bringing forward an offence under the laws of India. NADA must encourage athletes to come forward and provide assistance to them,” said Parth Goswami of the law firm Phalpher and Goswami.
The anti-doping panel order, dated January 30, 2019, highlighted the potential risk Jagtar and NADA officials faced when trying to curb suppliers of illegal substances to athletes.
“…the appellant and the NADA officials associated with investigation were roughed up and threatened by the alleged accused and their associates. The information provided by the athlete has certainly led to discovery of a criminal offence… as also the discovery of a very important source of illegal/unlicensed supply of prohibited substances to athletes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi,” the order stated.