Jithin Paul's suspension set aside

Quartermiler Jithin Paul’s exoneration by an Appeal Panel may have far reaching effect as to how the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has been conducting search operations to spot athletes possessing banned substances.

In February, a disciplinary panel handed Paul a four-year suspension for possessing meldonium in his room at NIS Patiala during a search operation by the NADA in April last year.   -  R. Ragu

Quartermiler Jithin Paul’s exoneration by an Appeal Panel may have far reaching effect as to how the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has been conducting search operations to spot athletes possessing banned substances.

In February, a disciplinary panel handed Paul a four-year suspension for possessing meldonium in his room at NIS Patiala during a search operation by the NADA in April last year.

The disciplinary panel rejected Paul's submission that no search or seizure memo was prepared at his room or any document was handed over to him as token of acknowledgement of items found from his room and suspended him for violating Article 2.6 of NADA Code.

However, the appeal panel, in its order on Tuesday, overturned the suspension on two grounds.

The appeal panel, headed by Justice (retd.) R.V. Easwar, said NADA might have the authority to conduct “testing and investigation” to catch dope cheats, it did not have the authority to conduct search operations.

“A search is a serious violation of the privacy of a person and can be exercised only if duly authorised by law. There is no law passed by the Parliament to which our attention was drawn on behalf of NADA authorising or regulating the search power over sportspersons,” said the appeal panel order.

The panel pointed out a communication from World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to Paul’s counsel as to whether NADA had search powers.

“After reviewing the Code and conducting research, it is our opinion that Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs) alone do not have the power to conduct search and seizures under the Code. There is no language in the Code that gives an anti-doping organisation that ability.

“In the past, search and seizures that have led to anti-doping rule violations were conducted by the local law enforcement,” the order quoted the WADA mail.

The appeal panel also rejected NADA’s argument that corrections on the envelopes carrying the seized banned substance were clerical and typographical errors and set aside the suspension imposed on Paul by the disciplinary panel.