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Has the Indian federation jumped the gun again?

Special Correspondent


  • The WADA Code states that for a first-time offence, the punishment would be two years ineligibility.
  • The suspension period for the Indian federation would be known only in May.
  • Premeelavalli's case is still being processed by the IWF.

    NEW DELHI: Even before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled that Tajinder Singh and Edwin Raju committed anti-doping rule violations, or the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Court has imposed sanctions on them, the International Weightlifting Federation (WF) has suspended the Indian Weightlifting Federation.

    On Sunday, not to be left behind in this "all-out drive against doping", the Indian federation imposed life-bans on Tajinder and Raju. At the same time it slapped two-year suspensions on woman lifters Shailaja Pujari and B. Premeelavalli, both of whom turned in `positives' during out of competition testing done by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) at Patiala in February.

    The suspension period for the Indian federation would be known only in May while the life-bans on Tajinder and Raju would come into effect after CAS delivers its verdict.

    The last time, the Indian federation imposed life-bans on two of its lifters, Pratima Kumari and Sanamacha Chanu, who tested positive at the Athens Olympics, the bans had to be reduced to two years following advice from WADA.

    The WADA Code states that for a first-time offence, the punishment would be two years ineligibility. Though there is no bar on any agency handing out a stiffer penalty, WADA's philosophy on the subject is too well known.

    Deterrent action

    "Such instances of doping bring a bad name to the country as a whole. We have to take deterrent action so that in future no one is tempted to resort to such practices. We were swayed by the decision taken in Mumbai in September 2004 that any doping rule violation in an international arena will attract life-ban," explained the President of the Indian federation, H.J. Dora, on Monday.

    Have Tajinder and Raju been given a chance to present their side of the case before a properly-constituted hearing panel? The answer is `no', for, the hearing, if any, will have to be conducted by the International federation after it is informed of the violations by the CGF.

    Before CGF gets the final verdict from CAS, it is in no position to impose sanctions or advise the international federation for follow-up action.

    Perhaps all these are mere formalities to be gone through in such cases. But both the IWF and WADA give importance to the right of an athlete to a "timely, fair and impartial" hearing.

    In this case, since the doping cases were reported in an international event, the IWF would be expected to initiate action. Raju came positive in an out of competition as well as `in competition' test, while Tajinder's positive came in an out of competition test in Melbourne.

    The IWF has, in the meantime, imposed a two-year suspension on Pujari for the positive in a WADA-conducted test. It is not clear whether a hearing process had been gone through in her case or whether the lifter had been told of her right to request a hearing.

    Fines

    The Indian federation has been informed of the suspension and asked to pay a fine of $2,000 and another $900 towards costs for testing.

    Premeelavalli's case is still being processed by the IWF. However, both Pujari and Premeelavalli have been suspended for two years by the Indian federation.

    Asked why Tajinder's out-of-competition test was not being considered on par with those of Pujari and Premeelavalli and he being handed out a life-ban, as against the two-year suspensions for the women, Mr. Dora pointed out that Tajinder's positive came in an "international arena" and had to be treated differently.

    Mr. Dora said that several proposals were made at Sunday's meeting to tackle doping in the sport in future and one of them pertained to a five-year ban for positive cases at home.

    Even a life-ban for all dope positives, including out of competition tests done by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), was also proposed. He said that legal aspects would be looked into before taking a final decision.

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