Triple jumper Renu Grewal suspended as CAS upholds WADA appeal

Renu Grewal’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) put a halt to her further progress, at least for some more time.

Published : Feb 04, 2024 18:34 IST , New Delhi - 5 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Test kit for urine dope testing with A and B sample bottles.
FILE PHOTO: Test kit for urine dope testing with A and B sample bottles. | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File

FILE PHOTO: Test kit for urine dope testing with A and B sample bottles. | Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File

It does not pay to avoid dope-testers. Invariably, the long arm of the anti-doping apparatus will get to the athlete. It also does not pay to avoid notices from relevant anti-doping authorities or arbitral entities. 

Renu Grewal, a triple jumper from Haryana, learned it the hard way last month. After having successfully appealed against the four-year suspension imposed on her by the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) at the national level, she confidently competed in domestic competitions last year. Little did she expect the appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to put a halt to her further progress, at least for some more time.

That is what happened on December 14 last year. Following the WADA appeal, CAS imposed a four-year ban on the Indian athlete that would now end on June 21, 2027. All her competition results from August 8, 2022, were disqualified by the single arbitrator of the Lausanne-based court.

On a more serious note, the arbitrator imposed 90 percent of the cost of CAS proceedings on the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and 10 percent on the athlete, showing NADA in poor light. NADA was also asked to pay 3000 Swiss francs (approximately Rs 2.87 lakh) to WADA towards the latter’s legal expenses in this case.

Neither NADA (the first respondent in the WADA appeal) nor Renu, the athlete (the second respondent), participated in the CAS proceedings. The order noted that despite due notice to both parties, they chose not to respond.

As per the case brought before the ADDP by NADA, Renu had evaded a NADA testing team when it visited the training centre at Bhiwani to collect her sample on the morning of August 8 2022. As per the charge, the athlete refused to sign the doping control form and ran away.

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Renu told the disciplinary panel headed by Charu Pragya that the DCO (Doping Control Officer) was accompanied by coach Suman and some other athletes, and some of them shouted that she would be killed (because of her enmity with the coach). She got scared and ran away. Her version was amended to explain later, before the appeal panel headed by Abhinav Mukerji, that the DCOs had not identified themselves and that Suman had unauthorisedly participated in the process.

The sole arbitrator of CAS, Annett Rombach of Germany, did not find any merit in Renu’s arguments as submitted in its appeal by WADA and in the proceedings of the two Indian panels. The appeal said the DCO had not revealed his identity and that she had enough justification for refusing to sign the notification form and for submitting samples for collection.

The CAS arbitrator noted that in video recordings submitted as evidence by WADA, the DCO had clearly told the athlete who he was and shown his identity card. The athlete had still refused to sign the form.

The DCO had also explained to the athlete the consequences of refusing to sign and evading sample collection. Yet, the athlete chose to run away, encouraged in the process by her coach (Surender) who was present.

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The sole arbitrator found no reason to doubt the veracity of the DCOs’ testimony due to the supporting evidence provided through two video recordings. The clip proved that the DCO had proven his identity and that the athlete, having refused to sign, had eventually run away. She did not agree with the contention of the athlete that there were unauthorised persons present at the time of the intended sample collection. She observed that the athlete had not brought forward any evidence to this effect except affidavits from two persons who were not mentioned during the first-instance proceedings in India.

The arbitrator noted the “ever-changing explanations” of the athlete in determining that there were no “exceptional circumstances” to support the athlete’s case.

In splitting the costs between NADA and the athlete on a 90-10 percent basis, the arbitrator noted the financial condition of the athlete and the responsibility of NADA.

She wrote: “With respect to the cost allocation between NADA and the athlete, the sole arbitrator took into consideration that the athlete did not defend against the appeal and, therefore, did not contribute to the costs incurred in these proceedings.

“At the same time, NADA is (strictly) liable for the decision of the NADA appeal panel, which acquitted the athlete due to a grossly misconceived interpretation and application of the relevant rules of the NADA ADR (Anti-Doping Rules).”

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Renu will serve her second phase of the suspension from December 14, 2023, the date of the CAS decision, to June 21, 2027. Her original suspension period from September 6, 2022, to February 28, 2023 (date of appeal panel decision) has been adjusted to the latest four-year suspension ordered by CAS.

Renu had finished seventh in the Inter-State championships in 2023 with 12.58m while she had won the title in the same meet the previous year at Chennai with 13.43m. In the Open championships last year she stood fifth (13.08m), having won the same event the previous year at Warangal. She has personal bests of 6.22m (long jump) and 13.86m (triple jump).

The verdict is a lesson for all the athletes, and it is more so for NADA, which chose not to respond to a CAS notice. The international anti-doping structure has been so clearly defined that each agency has its own responsibility and jurisdiction. It is not just the costs or adverse comments that matter in these situations, but the country’s image as a responsible member of the Olympic Movement and the anti-doping community.

In recent times, NADA has come under scrutiny by WADA for its inability to properly manage its “whereabouts” programme and in pursuing registered testing pool athletes while they are camping abroad. More recently, a WADA report found India to be second to Russia when it came to doping violations by minors.

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