Sprinter Archana Suseendran has been suspended for 18 months for an anti-doping rule violation.
The 29-year-old Tamil Nadu athlete who was tested out of competition at the Thiruvananthapuram camp on 19 December last year, had turned in a ‘positive’ result for chlorthalidone, a diuretic, in her urine sample analysed at the National Dope Testing Laboratory, New Delhi.
Diuretics are considered masking agents since they speed up the “wash-out” process through larger excretion of urine, thereby being able to mask the use of other banned substances including steroids.
Suseendran, who did not opt for a provisional suspension when she was charged with the violation on 23 February last, was suspended from 9 June this year, the date of the decision by the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP).
The athlete contended, through her lawyer, before the panel that she had a “clean” record in the past and that she had taken a medicine prescribed by her family doctor while she was at home. She had then complained of giddiness and the doctor apparently prescribed chlorthalidone, the drug in question, and telmisartan, an anti-hypertension medicine, among others.
Her lawyer cited several case laws to argue that she deserved only a “reprimand” for her offence since she had not deliberately consumed anything to enhance her performance. She had forgotten the names of the medicines and thus could not write them down in her doping control form, a point brought out by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) lawyer in his arguments seeking suspension.
Diuretics come under “specified substances” that are liable to be consumed by an athlete inadvertently. A two-year standard sanction is imposed for such offences unless it could be established that the athlete took the drug intentionally to enhance performance.
Suseendran applied for a ‘retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) ’ after she tested positive but the TUE committee rejected her application on the ground that the line of treatment prescribed was “inappropriate” for one reading of hypertension.
The hearing panel did not find any merit in the argument that she should be exonerated but did consider her plea to treat the case under “no significant fault or negligence” which carried a lighter punishment depending on the degree of fault.
In this case, the panel determined that her case came under the “standard degree of fault” and accordingly imposed an 18-month suspension.
The panel noted that she was an experienced athlete and had not exercised due diligence in checking out whether the medicine was prohibited. A simple internet search could have shown her that the medicine was prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the panel observed in its order.
The panel comprised Ms. Jyoti Zongluju (Chairperson) and members Dr. Sanjogita Soodan and Ms. Archana Surve.
Suseendran was chosen in a six-member sprint relay team for the ongoing Asian championships in Bangkok, but the team was subsequently withdrawn before it was announced to the media.
She had scored the sprint double in the Grand Prix meet at Thiruvananthapuram in March after having finished fourth in the Asian indoor championships at Astana, Kazakhstan, earlier this year.
Suseendran had won the 200m in a personal best 23.06s in the National Games at Gandhinagar last October when she also took second place in the 100m in 11.55s. She had returned a personal best 11.41s in the heats in Gandhinagar.
Ayush suspended for 4 years
Meanwhile, quarter-miler Ayush Dabas, who tested positive for GW1516 in November last year, has been suspended for four years with effect from 20 January this year.
Dabas had tested positive in an out-of-competition test at Thiruvananthapuram on 30 November 2022. The decision by a hearing panel was given on 15 June.
GW1516 also known as Cardarine and Endurobol, among other names, is not an approved drug and is often marketed as SARM (Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator), though it is not.
It is known as peroxisome proliferated-activated receptor d (PPSARd) and it helps in metabolizing body fat, according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). In doping it is known as an endurance aid.
Dabas argued through his lawyer that he had consumed only multivitamins and ashwagandha of his own volition and he was not in a position to bring prescriptions for their use.
A panel headed by Mr. Chaitanya Mahajan imposed a four-year suspension on the 400m runner who had taken second place at the National at Bengaluru in October last year. He had clocked his personal best of 46.52s in the semifinals there.
An appeal panel rejected an appeal from long-jumper-triple-jumper Aishwarya Babu on 27 May last, upholding the four-year sanction imposed on the Karnataka athlete by a disciplinary panel in February this year.
Aishwarya was tested at the National at Chennai where she posted a triple jump national record of 14.14m after she had recorded 6.73m in long jump during qualification.
She tested positive for Ostaraine, a SARM, also known as Enobosarm. She had pleaded she had consumed a substance given by another athlete for her shoulder pain and it had resulted in the positive test.
The appeal panel noted that the substance in question was not even an approved medicine, and it is only a research drug which is banned in India and elsewhere.
“The appellant has obviously procured this drug for the specific purpose of ingesting the same to gain an unfair competitive advantage,” the panel stated.
With Suseendran going under suspension to add to that of another Tamil Nadu sprinter, S. Dhanalakshmi, and with Dutee Chand undergoing provisional suspension for another doping infraction, the chances of India fielding a sprint relay team in the Asian Games has diminished considerably.
Another sprinter, Hima Das, who had shifted her attention to 100-200m from the 400m has practically gone out of the circuit with recurring injuries.
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