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Top Indian sprinter tests positive for banned drug

india Updated: Dec 03, 2010 23:45 IST
Navneet Singh

India was on the verge of a doping scandal at the just-concluded 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

The country’s top male sprinter Suresh Sathya, a member of the men’s 4x100m relay team that won bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in New Delhi in October, has tested positive for the steroid nandrolone and been provisionally suspended for a period of two years.

He failed an out-of-competition test conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), India’s top anti-doping agency.

It has been reliably learnt that the sample was collected in the second week of November.

However, the NADA delayed processing the sample for nearly ten days. This allowed the athlete to compete in the men’s 200m event at Guangzhou. “Given that Sathya was going to represent the country, his sample should have been processed on a priority basis before he left for the Asian Games,” said a senior athletics coach on the condition of anonymity.

NADA erred further as even though it had the result before the 200m final on November 25; it failed to get the athlete withdrawn. Sathya clocked 21.02 seconds to win the third heat and finished sixth eventually in the final. If he had finished in the medal bracket, he would have surely been tested and eventually flunked the test, going by the NADA result.

Systematic failure

NADA failed to process the sample in time and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) continues to patronize Ukraine for overseas training despite serious doubts about that nation offering a package clean of drugs.

Sathya, who has been a member of the core group for the past two years, was one of nine sprinters in the AFI shortlist for the Delhi games. Though in the past the sports ministry had opposed sending athletes to Ukraine, it gave AFI the go-ahead for CWG training.

Sathya was part of the bronze medal-winning effort of India’s sprint quartet in the CWG’ men’s 4x100 event. The team that included Rahamatulla Molla, Mohd Abdul Qureshi and Shameer Mon broke the national record. At the time, Games officials had assured HT that each medal winner was tested. As such, the present test result won’t affect the CWG medal or the new national record.

Though it is not the first time that an Indian athlete tested positive, Sathya’s case is unusual in that he is an upcoming sprinter and made his mark only in 2005. The relay bronze in the Delhi Commonwealth Games was his first international medal.

Another surprising fact about this case is that Sathya clocked 20.90 seconds in the 200m in Ukraine in September this year, just weeks before the CWG, coming close to bettering the national record of 20.73. However, for reasons best known to the AFI, he wasn’t fielded in 200m at Delhi.

In February this year, Sathya suffered an injury to his left knee but made a remarkable comeback within a few months. He had undergone knee surgery on his right knee in 2008.

It’s strange as to why his medical record, quick recovery and explosive bursts in recent times did not raise any flags in AFI circles.