Not satisfied with the one-year ban handed out to India's top quartermilers, including the Asian Games double gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji, in the doping scandal, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has appealed against the verdict and pleaded for a two-year sanction on the athletes.
WADA's appeal is a big setback for the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) hopes of sending a strong 4x400m women relay squad for the London Olympics.
The athletes were handed a reduced punishment of one-year ban by a National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) panel on the grounds that "the athletes were not found guilty of intentionally taking the banned substances".The athletes, in December, appealed for further reduction of the ban to the NADA Appellate panel, headed by C K Mahajan. The athletes -- Akkunji, Sini Jose, Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas - pleaded that they be absolved of all punishment as they had consumed the banned substances on the orders of their coach.
Mandeep Kaur and Jauna Murmu, who also tested positive for the same substance and were banned for a year, did not appeal. But before NADA could announce their verdict on the appeal, WADA has lodged an appeal against the original ban of one year. Rahul Bhatnagar, NADA director general, said WADA's appeal would come up before the NADA Appellate panel on February 15.
"WADA has filed an appeal, seeking a harsher punishment of two years under the rules. According to WADA's contention, the athletes should not have been handed a lighter punishment on the basis of their contention that they didn't know they were taking banned substances," said Bhatnagar.
WADA felt that under anti-doping rules, the athletes should bear the responsibility for consuming banned substances, intentionally or otherwise. Even Mandeep and Jauna, according to sources in the AFI, may face tough time as International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is also expected to file an appeal against NADA's verdict. Recently, the world governing body had asked for more details on the case from NADA.
Meanwhile, two hammer throwers tested positive out of the 30 samples collected by NADA during the Athletic segment of the 57th National School Games held in Ludhiana from January 20 to 23. The banned substances found in their sample are steroids Stenozolol and Methen Dianone.
In accordance with its programme, NADA had collected 30 samples during the competition and the results showed two samples to give positive results for dope.
Earlier, 11 players tested positive during the Games held in Delhi last month.