Narsingh Pancham Yadav and his lawyer, Vidushpat Singhania, will have to mount an impenetrable defence in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), fighting the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) appeal against the exoneration of the 74kg freestyle wrestler on doping charges.
Narsingh’s Rio participation looks bleak. The defence is easier said than done since there is little evidence to support Narsingh’s claim that someone had laced his amino drink with a banned substance which resulted in him testing positive.
Hindustan Times takes a look at two points that could spell trouble for the Narsingh during the hearing.
Discrepancies in Narsingh’s claims
From July 18, when he appeared before the National Anti Doping Agency’s (NADA’s) anti-doping and disciplinary panel, Narsingh’s story has changed many times.
First, he alleged that his food was spiked. Then he pointed at the food supplement and eventually said that his amino drink could have been contaminated in one of the two days — June 23 or June 24.
Even in his affidavit, that was submitted to support his claims of sabotage, he has presented two divergent views.
On Paragraph 17, he had mentioned that his food was contaminated, while Paragraph 18 read the story that his drink was laced. Now that the CAS hearing is on, Singhania, who will be pleading via a video conference on Thursday, will have to mount his defence with the same set of evidence, which is insufficient to get a reprieve.
The amino drink fail
Narsingh’s lawyers were successful in convincing the three-member anti-doping and disciplinary panel, assembled by NADA, that his amino drink was laced with the banned steroid sometime between June 23 and June 24 (during training at Sports Authority of India’s Sonepat centre).
Article 2.1 of WADA’s anti-doping rules states: “It is each athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substance enters his or her body. Athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers found to be present in their samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping rule violation.”
So in effect Narsingh, in his own plea, is admitting that he has failed to be careful about what he was ingesting, which, according to WADA is the responsibility of the athlete.
Another big hole in this theory is that all the coaches, trainers and support staff are in attendance during training sessions in Sonepat. It is impossible for someone to slip in and lace someone’s drink without being noticed.
Apart from Narsingh’s affidavit, his defence team had presented two more affidavits to strengthen his case: one from his training partner Sandip Tulsi Yadav, who too has tested positive for the same substance, and another from his cook Chandan Yadav.
But none of the affidavits point out an exact time frame for when the contamination could have happened. Neither do they point finger at a suspect. The only witnesses who deposed during the hearing were the cooks from the SAI centre. The cooks, who are contract employees at the centre, deposed before the panel that there was one attempt to contaminate Narsingh’s food on June 5 by a junior wrestler. The food, they said, was thrown away after that.
Narsingh got the reprieve under rule 10.4 of the WADA code that states: “If an athlete or other person establishes in an individual case that he or she bears no fault or negligence, then the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility shall be eliminated.”
He was let off without any reprimand. Athletes’ rarely get reprieve under this clause. French tennis star Richard Gasquet had claimed his positive test for cocaine was because he kissed “Pamela”.
While WADA and ITF had sought a lengthy ban, ITF’s tribunal suspended him for just two and a half months.
In Narsingh’s case, NADA’s panel took a sympathetic view as they felt “it was inconceivable that Narsingh would have got any significant gain from the ‘one-time ingestion’ and therefore it strengthened his claim of sabotage”.
WADA will not be that sympathetic towards the Indian wrestler.