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Pratima agrees to `B' sample test in absentia

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 17. Weightlifter Pratima Kumari, who tested positive for steroid testosterone at the Athens Olympics, has agreed for the `B' sample test to be held in the presence of a Greek weightlifting official.

Pratima came to the Indian Weightlifting Federation office at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday, and after some hesitation requested the Secretary, Balbir Singh Bhatia, to inform the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) about her desire to go through with the test that had been fixed at the accredited laboratory in Athens on September 20.

Since neither Pratima nor her representative can make it to Athens after completing the necessary formalities within the short time available, the Indian federation has requested the IWF to allow a representative of the Hellenic Weightlifting Federation in Athens to represent the Indian lifter at the testing.

The `B' sample testing is a legal formality that is completed when the competitor requests such a test. The Indian contingent had made such a request in Athens immediately after being informed about the out-of-competition test result. Nothing was known after that.

The Indian federation, after receiving the relevant papers from the Indian contingent officials wrote to the IWF about the `B' test again and the IWF then informed that it has been scheduled for September 20. The Indian federation, in the meantime, waited for a word from Pratima also.

If the competitor had waived her right to have the `B' test, the IWF could have still gone ahead with the test though it was not mandatory to do so. Based on the `A' sample test alone it could have taken action after completing the rest of the formalities. There is no reported instance of a `B' sample test for a steroid having come `negative' anywhere in the world since testing began. However, discrepancies, if any, had always been used by competitors while pleading their cases before hearing panels or courts.

What is of more relevance in Pratima's case will be the subsequent procedure involved in determining the testosterone positive. In the absence of any previous medical records to prove her normal testosterone levels, she will be subjected to further tests, which may include three unannounced tests within a three-month period. The IWF has not indicated whether it would be satisfied with an isotope ratio measurement analysis (IRMA) that can determine the source of the additional testosterone found in her body. It was reported that she had a level exceeding 12. The permissible ratio for the testosterone/epitestosterone level is 6:1.

Chanu's fate

The other doping case involving an Indian lifter at Athens, that of Sanamacha Chanu, that happened to be an `in-competition' test, has already been dealt with by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after her `B' sample was tested in her and the Indian Deputy Chef de Mission, Harsh Sharma's presence in Athens and she was called before an IOC panel. The IWF has to indicate the suspension period to the Indian body now.

Diuretics, for which she tested positive, being not in the `specified' category in weightlifting, Chanu also faces a two-year suspension as in the case of Pratima.

The Indian federation has, in the meantime, decided that it would impose life-bans on those testing positive at Olympic Games, Asian Games etc. This will, however, have to be for future cases since such an action with retrospective effect might not stand legal scrutiny. It is waiting for the Indian Olympic Association enquiry commission, headed by K. P. Singh Deo, to finalise its report before announcing its decisions on the two cases. The IWF decisions will be binding on all parties concerned, after the procedures are completed, unless the lifter appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Mr. Singh Deo said on Friday that since the `B' test of Pratima had been scheduled for September 20, it would only be in the fitness of things if he waited for that process to be completed. He was originally scheduled to submit his report on September 18.

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