The anti-doping machinery can be unrelenting at times, almost cruel to an outsider. Just when an athlete starts thinking that the worst is behind him, comes a shattering blow: another positive test! Discus thrower Dharam Raj Yadav found this to his dismay earlier this year when he was suspended for four years for a doping offence. He had an earlier sanction reversed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) but he soon realized dopers could be at risk any time during their career if they continued to indulge in unethical practices.
Yadav had his best year in 2018. He won two National titles that year and had a personal best of 59.56m to boot. Unfortunately for him, he was caught for doping in September that year, in an out-of-competition test just a week before the Open National meet in Bhubaneswar where he won and posted his PB. Obviously, the test report took time and could not be processed before he competed in the National. He had won the inter-State title before the Open National with 58.60m but could not make the cut for the 2018 Asian Games.
Yadav tested positive for androgen metabolites in the sample taken at Bangalore on 19 September 2018 and his case was brought before the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (AADP).
The athlete, through his lawyer, stated that he was abandoning his earlier defence in his written submission since he had consumed GNC DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) which was a prohibited substance. He had written down the supplement during sample collection in his doping control form but he, being from a poor background, was unfamiliar with the rules since he did not know English nor the use of internet, and was unaware that DHEA was prohibited.
(DHEA is a prohibited substance coming under steroids. It breaks down to dihydrotestosterone, testosterone, androsterone and other androgen metabolites within the body that were reported in Yadav’s urine sample).
The panel noted that since the athlete had admitted the use of a prohibited substance, it was clear that an anti-doping rule violation had taken place. It found no argument to support the contention that the athlete’s consumption of the substance was unintentional.
The ADDP slapped a four-year suspension on Yadav from provisional suspension date (5 March 2019).
Yadav’s doping case and sanction took a bizarre twist in March next year. On 3 March 2020 the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) which tested the Uttar Pradesh athlete’s urine sample, wrote to the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to conduct a re-analysis of the sample.
On 5 March 2020, the WADA wrote to NADA to overturn the ruling on an anti-doping rule violation charge against Yadav. The next day, NADA withdrew the charge.
Yadav was reprieved along with a few others whose cases WADA had reviewed and ordered that the anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) against them be cancelled. The problem apparently arose with the NDTL IRMS (isotope ratio measurement spectrometry) analysis which is used to confirm the levels of endogenous (within the body) steroids that could have been suspected to have come exogenously (from outside). In short, IRMS analysis determines the exogenous origin of the steroids normally found in the human body (examples testosterone and nandrolone).
The NDTL was suspended by WADA in August 2019, though in April that year itself the latter had apparently sounded the alert as per reports. The lab was asked to rectify shortcomings noticed during a WADA audit including the IRMS analysis and reporting. The laboratory’s accreditation was re-instated in December 2021.
Yadav approached the Delhi High Court for damages from NADA since he argued, through his lawyers, that he was suspended for one year (from 5 March 2019 to 6 March 2020) unfairly as it was based on an erroneous test at NDTL. He further argued that the payment sought by the laboratory for the documentation package (detailed analytical reports of a positive test) was illegal as per Indian Constitution and was also against the rules of WADA.
The court was told by Yadav’s counsel Shivam Singh in September 2021 that the WADA had intervened and the petitioners were no longer suffering the “impact of the provisional suspension”.
However, the court ruled that the validity of the NADA rules, which was challenged, needed to be gone into. The case is scheduled to be taken up in September this year.
Even as the court case was going on and Yadav had become eligible and had started participating, another unexpected twist was given to the doping story through another test. This time, from a sample collected at the Inter-State athletics championships at Patiala on 27 June 2021, Yadav returned a positive result for steroid methandienone and its metabolites. He had finished fourth with a throw of 55.67m. Obviously, NADA, rather justifiably and thoughtfully, had marked him out for a test. Target-testing is part of the methods used by anti-doping agencies to nail potential dopers. The test was conducted at the WADA-accredited laboratory at Ghent, Belgium.
A hearing was held on 7 Feb 2022, and ten days later the multiple-time Services champion athlete was suspended for four years.
Yadav took the plea that he had consumed an energy drink and the substance possibly had got into his body through the drink. He once again fell back to the argument that he was from a village background and was unfamiliar with prohibited substances. The panel rejected his pleas.
The 31-year-old Armyman was suspended from his provisional suspension date of 4 August 2021 for four years.
Yadav had represented the country in the Asian championships at Bhubaneswar in 2017, finishing 11th with a throw of 54.53m. That year he had swept the domestic titles, winning the Fed Cup (58.32m), Inter-State (55.55m) and the Open National (54.53m).
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