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WADA decision gives dope-accused hope

K.P. Mohan

Controversial methylhexaneamine shifted to ‘specified substance' list by Executive Committee

NEW DELHI: In a major development, following the re-classification of the prohibited substance, methylhexaneamine, by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), a dozen Indian sportspersons, reported for an adverse analytical finding stand a chance to escape with a mere warning and come back into the Indian teams for the Commonwealth Games.

Methylhexaneamine, at the centre of a raging controversy for more than two weeks, has been shifted to the ‘specified substance' list from the ‘non-specified stimulants' batch in the 2011 Prohibited List (effective from January 1 next year) by the WADA at its Executive Committee meeting held in Montreal on Saturday.

“The athletes are entitled to the legal principle of ‘lex mitior' (the principle of lex mitior means that, if the law relevant to the offence of the accused has been amended, the less severe law should be applied).

Entitled to know

“WADA has informed that judicial notice might be taken off its revised status in the list should there be hearings related to the athletes who have presently tested positive for this substance, particularly having regard to issues such as selection process and eligibility for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games,” said the Director-General of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), Rahul Bhatnagar, on Sunday.

The WADA also told the NADA that the athletes were entitled to know about the re-classification of the substance. The hearings of the cases involving methylhexaneamine violations are scheduled for Wednesday.

Mr. Bhatnagar said that the matter of 12 Indians testing positive for the same stimulant within a short span of time was reported to the WADA.

“The stimulant ‘methylhexaneamine' (which may be described, like many other substances, by other chemical names) is now included in the Prohibited List as a Specified Substance. This substance is often marketed as a nutritional supplement and may frequently be referred to as ‘geranium oil' or ‘geranium root extract',” WADA stated, according to Mr. Bhatnagar.

The re-classification of the substance will mean an athlete could face a sanction ranging from a mere warning to two years ineligibility while in the previous categorisation it was a two-year suspension.

The WADA introduced the classification ‘specified substances' in 2004 in order to give some leeway for substances that could be susceptible to inadvertent use, unintentional anti-doping rule violations or to a “credible non-doping explanation'.

Justification needed

The WADA Code states that the athlete should prove how the substance got into his body. To justify any elimination or reduction, the athlete must produce corroborating evidence in addition to his word which establishes to the “comfortable satisfaction” of the hearing panel the absence of intent to enhance performance.

The Code explains: “It is anticipated that the period of ineligibility will be eliminated entirely in only the most exceptional cases.”

Whether the explanation of “inadvertent use” could be applied to methylhexanamine, brought into the Prohibited List only at the beginning of this year, is a moot point.

One of the methylhexaneamine products available on the internet says: “Get jacked with muscle-gorging strength, energy, power and endurance support.”

Persuasive skills needed

While an inadvertent use of a medication, prescribed by a doctor unfamiliar with WADA restrictions, could be understandable, it would require considerable persuasive skills to convince anyone that the use of a supplement containing a banned substance was not in an effort to enhance performance.

Unless the athlete is able to establish that the ‘positive' came from massage oil or edible oil.

In India, the substance has been categorised by some of the ‘experts' as massage oil and cooking oil.

It is not clear whether WADA considered any of these arguments while taking methylhexaneamine off its ‘non-specified' status.

WADA had stated less than a fortnight ago that it was not aware of a medicine containing methylhexaneamine since the 1970s and it did not know that the substance was known to be edible oil.

Meanwhile, the WADA has not clarified what would happen to those who are already serving two-year suspensions, sanctioned under the previous classification, for methylhexaneamine abuse.

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