M. R. Poovamma suspended for two years, NADA appeal upheld

In a decision given on September 16, the appeal panel held that the appeal by NADA was admissible, and the athlete failed to establish how the prohibited substance (methylhexaneamine) entered her body.

FILE PHOTO: M.R. Poovamma of Karnataka after winning the women’s 400m event at the 55th National Inter-State Athletics Championship at Nehru Stadium in Chennai on July 13, 2015. 

FILE PHOTO: M.R. Poovamma of Karnataka after winning the women’s 400m event at the 55th National Inter-State Athletics Championship at Nehru Stadium in Chennai on July 13, 2015.  | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

In a decision given on September 16, the appeal panel held that the appeal by NADA was admissible, and the athlete failed to establish how the prohibited substance (methylhexaneamine) entered her body.

Multiple medallist in the Asian Games and Asian championships, M. R. Poovamma, has been suspended for two years by an Anti-Doping Appeal Panel (ADAP), ruling the Karnataka quarter-miler out of next year’s Asian Games, World championships and Asian championships.

In a decision given on September 16, two days before the completion of the three-month suspension period ordered by the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP), the appeal panel held that the appeal by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) was admissible, and the athlete had failed to establish how the prohibited substance (methylhexaneamine) entered her body.

The panel also ruled that the report by a private lab in Noida about the supplement she had taken being contaminated could not be relied upon as the report by a private lab in Noida did not include the batch number of the product and manufacturing details. “The container was open and suspicious”, the panel headed by Mr. Abhinav Mukerji, noted in its order.

Also Read | Doping violations and delays: NADA appeals verdict in athlete Poovamma’s case

Poovamma had tested positive in an in-competition test conducted at Patiala on 18 February 2021. A disciplinary panel imposed a three-month suspension on her stating that the prohibited substance, MHA, had entered her body through a supplement she had taken and which she had got tested at a Noida laboratory.

NADA went into appeal arguing that the claim of the athlete having consumed the supplement was an afterthought and no evidence had been submitted as to how the MHA got into her body, a prerequisite for enabling a reduced sanction. Normally, a stimulant like MHA would be penalized by a two-year sanction but if it is established that the athlete bore “no significant fault or negligence” in committing the adverse analytical finding (AAF) then the sanction could be reduced.

The ADAP, apart from extending the suspension to two years, which would run up to 2024 (since the ADDP decision was effective from decision date of 16 June 2022), also annulled all of Poovamma’s results achieved since her sample collection dating back to February 2021.

As reported by the Sportstar last month, Poovamma had contended that the prohibited substance had entered her body through the supplement she was taking though she could not establish any scientific evidence to prove that the said supplement contained geranium, or the latter was the source of MHA.

In several research papers between 2011 and 2012 it had been contended that geranium did not contain MHA and any claim by supplement manufacturers to prove the contrary was only a marketing gimmick.

One of the mainstays of the Indian women’s 4x400m relay teams since 2013, Poovamma had been part of the team in 2014 and 2018 Asian Games when India took the gold. She was also part of the gold-winning women’s relay teams in Asian championships in 2013 and 2017. The team also won the silver in the 2019 Asian championships. The 32-year-old athlete had also won the Asian meet silver in 400m 2013 and 2015, while taking the individual bronze in the Asian Games in 2014.

In another decision issued on 17 September, the appeal panel rejected the appeal of wrestler Satinder Malik against his four-year suspension for “evasion” during the inter-Services championships held in Delhi in October last year.

“We dismiss the appeal. The sanction of four years imposed …is confirmed,” said the ADAP order.

The panel also ordered that all other results achieved by the wrestler from the date of his sanction shall be disqualified and he would forfeit all prizes, medals and points he earned.

The appeal panel decisions at the national level cannot be challenged by the athletes though the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the concerned international federations hold the right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

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