In the age of instant communication, the National Anti-Doping Agency chose to stake the nation’s honour on snail mail. Rahul Bhatnagar, the man who heads NADA, on Saturday confirmed HT’s story on the positive dope test of 23-year-old sprinter Suresh Sathya. “We got the report on November 23 and issued a provisional suspension the next day. We also informed the federation,” he explained further. The crucial bit is just how was the information conveyed. “NADA generally sends reports by courier,” said Bhatnagar. The body simply dispatched a letter through conventional mail and did not deem it necessary to call or email anyone in authority either in Delhi or Guangzhou. Sathya was, therefore, able to participate in the men’s 200m on Nov 25 and the 4x100m finals on Nov 26.
“I landed in India on the November 28 and was given the letter on the 29th. Nobody informed me while I was in China,” said AK Mendiratta, the Athletics Federation of India’s medical officer. It was Mendiratta who had collected the sample from Sathya, which turned out to be nandrolone contaminated. However, it appears that it was not possible to process the sample before the athlete left for Guangzhou. “He reached Delhi on November 14 and left for China by a flight the same evening.”
Despite Sathya being part of the Asian games squad, the federation apparently did not request for a priority on testing. “AFI never specified that testing had to be done on a priority basis. Hence, the lab took its normal time since there are a lot of samples to be tested,” said Bhatnagar. While the NADA and AFI indulged in verbal ping-pong, Sathya seemed all alone protesting his innocence. “This is impossible. I don’t have any idea how all this has happened,” the sprinter told HT from Chennai.
Sathya insisted: “It’s all hard work. I was called to the national camp in February. When I joined the camp, I wasn’t physically fit to run a good race. But I did put in lot of hard work to reach a good level,” he said. He is a bit confused about the positive test. “I didn’t take anything to prop up my performance, not even food supplements.”
Running for cover
Despite AFI receiving the letter on November 29, chief national coach Bahadur Singh has apparently been kept in the dark. “I have not heard of this till now. I am shocked,” he said. He also did not wish to comment as to why the athlete’s sample was not marked as a priority even though he was part of the Asian Games squad.
Former Asian champion R Gnansekaran, however, was infuriated about the whole episode, calling for stern action. “Sports ministry should look into the issue as to how Sathya was allowed to go to China without his sample being tested,” he said. Gnansekaran won gold in 200m at the Bangkok Asiad.
AFI officiating secretary Ravinder Chaudhary ran for cover, taking refuge in the claim that he was only officiating during the Delhi games and therefore not authorised to speak. AFI’s secretary Lalit Bhanot, meanwhile, asserted that Chaudhary is still the officiating secretary and, as such, Bhanot himself could not comment on the matter!