NADA amends its anti-doping rules a second time to fall in line with World Anti-Doping Code

There is no longer any provision to deal separately with doping offences committed by younger athletes belonging to schools and universities or in state-level competitions.

NADA has done away with the definition of “other athletes” and removed reference to School Games, University Games etc in its new set of rules.

The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has quietly amended its anti-doping rules, for a second time this year, to fall in line with the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code.

It now seems, NADA has given up the idea of having a different set of rules within its 2021 rules to deal with Khelo India-level anti-doping rule violations so that the young crop of sportspersons , as per its reasoning, got a “second chance” to revive their careers after committing doping offences and getting sanctioned.

This illogical plan was first unravelled by the then Director General of NADA, Navin Agarwal, in February this year, startling those who follow anti-doping rules as defined by the Code in this country and possibly the WADA itself.

The new WADA Code had come into effect from January 1 this year. All signatories were expected to revise their rules as per the new Code.

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The Indian NADA also did, but with amendments that had no basis in the Code and which were bound to be objected to by the WADA.

“As per the new rules, which we have implemented from January 1 under the new WADA Code, there will be separate criteria for dope control of athletes below the national level. These tests will not be reported to WADA and will be governed by our regulations. There will be milder penalties and quicker disposal of cases as they will not have stringent protocols required under the WADA rules,” Agarwal was quoted as saying in a newspaper report.

Under the proposed new rules to be applied to a variety of athletes not falling within the definition of “international” or “national” level athletes, the maximum sanction was to be for two years. The Code has a four-year standard sanction for first-time offenders.

The report quoted Agarwal to say that the cases of “this group of athletes will no longer be referred to NADA’s disciplinary panel”. Instead, there would be a short procedure and a summary disposal of these cases so there was no delay.

“Athletes who compete in state-level meets, school games, university tournaments and the Khelo India Games, among others, will be governed by the new set of rules”, Agarwal told the daily.

It looked NADA as well as other authorities were concerned with the number of dope offenders reported from Khelo India events and were keen to not only get the numbers reduced but also avoid slapping harsher sanctions on offenders. The milder sanctions were not possible going by the WADA regulations which all signatories to the Code were bound to implement.

READ: NADA improves testing in Olympic year, still a long way to go

It was clear that someone in NADA had made a mistake in interpreting the provisions for the recreational athletes in the Code. That NADA went ahead and published its interpretations as part of its rules was shocking since the WADA, in responding to this correspondent’s query, stated that discussions were going on then with the NADA and there was no finality as far as the new, revised NADA rules were concerned.

WADA explained that if an athlete turned in a positive test for dope there could be no relaxations in the rules as prescribed in the Code if the test was conducted by any of the Code signatories under its mandate and rules.

Though NADA did not specify under what rules it proposed to sanction athletes being classified in a special group for doping offences, Agarwal stated that the maximum could be two years suspension and for the rest it could be up to NADA to determine the quantum of punishment. The processes were never explained.

Now, NADA has published an amended version of its anti-doping rules on its website. The date on which it effected the changes is not known. However, one thing is clear now: There is no longer any provision to deal separately with doping offences committed by younger athletes belonging to schools and universities or in state-level competitions.

NADA has done away with the definition of “other athletes” and removed reference to School Games, University Games etc in its new set of rules. At the same time, it has also rearranged the definitions in such a way that all those previously categorised as “other athletes” would now get into “national-level” athletes.

The following paragraphs have been removed in the revised 2021 rules as available on the NADA website:

“The following athletes shall be considered as Other Athletes for the purpose of these Anti-Doping Rules who shall be governed by the Anti-Doping Regulations:

  • (a) Any other Athlete who by virtue of an accreditation, a license or any other contractual arrangement, falls within the competence of a National Federation in India or any affiliated association, organization, club, team, or league in India for the purposes of fighting doping in sport in India.
  • (b) Athletes who participate in any activity organized, recognized, or hosted by a National Event organizer or any other national league and which is not otherwise affiliated with a National Federation.
  • (c) Athletes who participate in any National School Games, National University Games, National Winter Games organised by National Sports Federation, Sports Council, Sports Boards, State Government.”

It was obvious WADA would not be agreeing to the idea of NADA in not routing doping cases through a hearing process or in imposing lenient sanctions on a batch of sportspersons at the State, school and university levels.

READ: North Korea, Thailand, Indonesia ruled non-compliant by WADA

In the meantime, the WADA announced today that it had declared five agencies as “non-compliant”, three National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) and two international federations.

The NADOs are Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Indonesia and Thailand. The two federations are, Deaf International Basketball Federation and International Gira Sports Federation.

The consequences for the NADOs would include the possibility of these countries not getting to host regional, continental or world championships or events organized by Major Event Organisations (e.g., IOC) during the period of non-compliance.

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