NADA exonerates Narsingh

National Ant-Doping Agency today cleared wrestler Narsingh Yadav of all doping charges.

Narsingh... cleared of all charges.   -  PTI

It was a verdict that was welcomed with raucous sloganeering while even his most strident supporters appeared pleasantly surprised. Wrestler Narsingh Pancham Yadav, provisionally suspended for ingesting an anabolic steroid, was on Monday exonerated of all charges, getting a clean chit from the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) which accepted the conspiracy and sabotage theory advanced by his legal team.

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The ADDP, which held marathon hearings going into late hours over three days, ruled in favour of the wrestler accepting all his claims and refusing to consider any fault or negligence on his part, clearing him under Article 10.4 of the WADA.

The exoneration, however, does not automatically translate into Narsingh boarding the flight for Rio Olympics as both the international federation and the IOC need to approve his entry. India has already named Praveen Rana as Narsingh’s replacement pending NADA’s decision.

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It also needs to be seen whether the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) appeals against the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It has 21 days to do so and pending a decision from CAS, Narsingh will be free to compete. Other agencies that have the right to appeal are the international federation (UWW), NADA and the IOC.

At the same time, it would be interesting to know Narsingh’s mental condition, given the stress and drama over the past fortnight. Reading out the ADDP report, NADA Director-General Navin Aggarwal said that the panel had accepted the athlete’s claim that it was a one-time positive test based on the fact that the quantity of prohibited substance (anabolic steroid Methandienone) in his second sample taken on July 5 was substantially less from the amount found in the first sample taken on June 25.

“It should also be kept in mind that in the past (till June 2) none of the samples collected from the athlete were found positive. It is further inconceivable that one-time ingestion by the athlete would be of significant gain to him.

“Therefore the panel is of the opinion that it was without his knowledge and strengthens the claim about sabotage,” Aggarwal said. He, however, did not say whether NADA would appeal against the decision.

Aggarwal also said that the ADDP was satisfied with the caution exercised by Narsingh. “It is not disputed that he has consumed food from the mess of SAI, Sonepat; that he consumed food supplements provided by the WFI and the JSW Foundation; that the athlete regularly consulted Dr. Joginder, a sports doctor; that he locked the room in which the drinks and supplements were kept; that any change if required in the food was done by the athlete’s close confidant Chandan Yadav only; that mixture for drink were either undertaken by the athlete directly or his confidant wrestling partner of 15 years Sandeep Tulsi Yadav (interestingly, Sandeep has also tested positive for the same substance); and that he used to keep his amino drink besides the mat of practice. The athlete pleads that the only caution he failed to undertake was that he did not keep an eye on his amino drink during practice on June 23 and 24,” he added.

NADA lawyer Gaurang Kanth admitted the decision was a bit shocking. “It needs to be seen on what evidence the panel came to this decision. Complete exoneration was unexpected. But NADA will now have to take a decision on whether to appeal or not. Either NADA or the WADA can go in appeal to the CAS,” Kanth told The Hindu.

Narsingh’s lawyer Vidushpat Singhania said there were several mitigating factors that went in his favour. One of them cited by Narsingh’s defence panel included his participation in the Spanish Grand Prix where he won bronze on July 9. “That he wasn’t tested there is a big thing. But if he knew he had doped, why would he go for an international competition where there were chances of being tested amidst competitors from 50-odd countries?” the WFI officials asked.

The other factor considered by the ADDP was the fact that Narsingh did not have either his security officer with him on June 23 and 24 or his confidant Chandan, who used to prepare his food, leaving open the possibility for his drink to be spiked. Also, the defence claimed that the substance consumed helped build weight, which did not make sense when he was on a weight-loss programme.

Narsingh, who won bronze at the 2015 World Championships to clinch the quota in the 74kg category, assured of giving his best for a medal at Rio. “I am very happy and I am hopeful of winning a medal. Truth has won. I knew I was on the right side and was confident of getting justice,” he said.

WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh claimed that Narsingh’s determination had only strengthened after the episode and expressed hope that he would go to Rio.

However, before that happens, the wrestler would have to undergo a reinstatement test at a time determined by the NADA and while the federation wants to get it done as soon as possible, it also admitted that it wanted to be sure all traces of methandienone had washed away from his body before that.