Sanjita Chanu cleared of doping charge by IWF

Doping charge against Indian weightlifter Sanjita Chanu has been cleared by the IWF due to "non-conformities" in the handling of her sample.

"Every athlete’s ultimate dream is to get a medal in the Olympic Games, and at least participating in the Games. For me, that chance had been snatched by IWF,” Chanu said.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Two-time Commonwealth Games gold medal winning weightlifter K. Sanjita Chanu was exonerated of doping charges on Wednesday after more than two-and-a-half years.

In an email sent early on Wednesday, International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) legal counsel Dr. Lila Sagi informed Sanjita and the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) that the case was ‘closed’ and the “IWF has decided to withdraw the charges.”

The letter said, “On 28 May 2020, the IWF was informed by WADA that ‘due to certain non-conformities at the time of the analysis of the sample with the IRMS analytical method of the laboratory (which has since been corrected to the satisfaction of the WADA Laboratory Expert Group), WADA recommends – out of fairness to the athlete – that the case against the athlete based on the sample be closed.”

In an anti-doping case which witnessed several irregularities – including her sample being tested in a (Salt Lake City) lab with two different IDs, her ‘B’ sample being tested after more than three months (after being told about the test) and without a ‘proper witness’ – Sanjita’s urine sample returned a positive result for testosterone in an out-of-competition test conducted by the USA Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) on November 18, 2017 in Las Vegas prior to the World championships in Anaheim.

On January 19, 2018, USADA wrote to the IWLF informing that its attempt to inform Sanjita (on January 9, 2018) about the anti-doping violation was unsuccessful and sought the Indian body’s assistance.

Interestingly, the 26-year old was allowed to compete in the 2018 Commonwealth Games (where she won a gold medal) in April before the IWF provisionally suspended her on May 15, 2018 for the doping violation.

READ: Sanjita Chanu to seek compensation from IWF in unsettled dope case

On January 22, 2019, the IWF lifted the provisional suspension. It took nearly one year and five months more to exonerate Sanjita.

Sanjita's reaction was mixed. “Happy that the case is closed and my name is cleared. I can apply for the Arjuna Award. However, I am sad to lose out on crucial years. I lost a chance to try for the Olympics, I could have won so many medals and prize money,” Sanjita, an Imphal-based athlete, told Sportstar.

Sanjita’s brother Bijen, who represented the athlete with another adviser at the IWF hearing in Budapest in October 2018, said the athlete would move the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) seeking monetary compensation.

“Sanjita went through tremendous mental trauma, spent approximately Rs. 25 lakh and lost a chance to qualify for the Olympics. It also soiled her reputation. We will seek compensation and a proper explanation. It may be a human error (at the lab which was temporarily suspended by WADA for non-conformities), but it spoiled the career of a sportsperson. Someone has to take the responsibility,” said Bijen.

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