Despite establishing that the supplements he claimed he had consumed contained the banned substance for which he had tested positive, javelin thrower Shivpal Singh could not avoid a four-year suspension.
Shivpal, the number two ranked Indian javelin thrower who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, had tested positive in an out-of-competition test on September 26, 2021. An Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) imposed the four-year suspension from the provisional suspension date of October 21, 2021 on August 16, 2022.
Shivpal had tested positive for metabolites of methandienone, an anabolic steroid, originally more popular among weightlifters and powerlifters. However, its usage has now seen a spike among Indian track and field athletes, especially throwers.
The Uttar Pradesh athlete requested that the supplement, Prime Testo Booster be tested at the National Dope-Testing Laboratory (NDTL, Delhi, and a panel ordered that it be tested. NDTL confirmed the presence of methandienone in the supplement samples, one in sealed container (60 capsules) and another in an unsealed one (12 capsules).
The athlete submitted before the panel that he had written down all the supplements he was consuming including the Prime Testo Booster in the doping control form. He said he had been using the same supplement from various companies and never had faced a doping charge.
Shivpal’s lawyer told the panel that the athlete got the supplement this time through his coach Mintu Ahlawat who purchased it from a herbal pharmacy in Muzaffarnagar, UP.
The athlete had checked the labels and found no banned substances listed in the ingredients, it was argued. The counsel for the athlete contended that the athlete was a victim of the action by an “organised crime syndicate”. It was said he had consumed the product, claimed to be a reputed one from the US. It was also said it contained no banned drugs.
The plea was for exoneration, failing which the counsel sought leniency under the clause of “no significant fault or negligence.”
The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), represented by its law officer, Yasir Arafat, argued that the athlete had bought the supplement through his coach. Arafat also said Shivpal was quick to point out “inadvertent consumption” after testing the substance at NDTL and getting the report, but had not exercised caution through testing the supplement before consuming.
When NADA pointed out that the package had no batch number and the athlete being an international should not have consumed it, Arafat contended saying he had consumed it in order to enhance his performance.
NADA’s contention was the athlete had “cooked up” the arguments with the intention of escaping liability and his case was “concocted and self-contradictory.”
The panel noted that the athlete had tested positive for methandienone which was present in the supplement he consumed, he had listed the name of the supplement in his doping control form, but he had not shown “unintentional” use.
“The explanations offered by the athlete do not appeal to the panel as credible or genuine because the purchase bill of the product was not (in) his name nor the product was having any batch number/lot number,“ the panel wrote in the order.
“The panel view is that (the) athlete had consumed Prime Testo Booster supplements/steroids at his own risk without even bothering to consult his Federation coach/doctor (if any) or any other expert/officials in the Federation to ascertain as to whether the supplements contain prohibited substances or not, as a result (the) athlete engaged in a conduct, which constitute anti-doping rule violation and manifestly disregarded the risk”.
All of Shivpal’s results after September 26, 2021 would be disqualified, and prizes, medals and points would be forfeited.
Like in the Kamalpreet Kaur instance at the international level, mere submission of a supplement sample that eventually turns up positive for the substance for which the athlete is caught, is not sufficient to get a lenient sanction. Kamalpreet accepted a three-year suspension under the “early admission” rule which is becoming milder alternative option for the athletes who could otherwise be facing a four-year suspension.
Shivpal is the seventh leading athlete banned this season, either by the Athletics Integrity Unit of World Athletics (WA) or by NADA. Ahead of him were quarter-miler M. R. Poovamma, discus throwers Kamalpreet and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, sprinter S. Dhanalakshmi, horizontal jumper B. Aishwarya and javelin thrower Rajender Singh.
Apart from these athletes, woman sprinters M. V. Jilna, who was named in the team for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, and Taranjeet Kaur are also under suspensions for doping offences.