Narsingh Yadav’s Rio participation hangs by a thread. The wrestler and his lawyer Vidushpat Singhania will need to mount a watertight defence before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if he hopes to get a clean chit on doping.
The World Anti-doping Agency’s (WADA) appeal against the Indian body (NADA) exonerating Narsingh following his positive test will be heard on Thursday, on the eve of his 74kg freestyle bout. If the appeal is upheld, he faces a four-year ban.
The biggest challenge for Narsingh is that the evidence to convince CAS that someone did lace his amino drink leading to the positive test does not look strong. The contention was accepted by the NADA panel.
Besides, he has kept shifting his claim since July 18, when he went before the NADA panel. He first claimed his food was contaminated, then pointed to the food supplement and then said his amino drink could have been laced between June 23 and June 24. Even his affidavit submitted to support his sabotage claim gives two different views. Paragraph 17 mentions that his food was contaminated while paragraph 18 claims his drink was laced.
Singhania, who will link up via video conferencing, will have to lead his plea with the same evidence.
At the NADA hearing, Narsingh’s lawyers successfully argued that his drink was laced with the banned steroid metandienone during training at Sports Authority of India’s Sonepat centre.
But 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… 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.”
Apart from Narsingh’s affidavit, his defence team had given two more affidavits. One of them was from his training partner Sandip Tulsi Yadav, who too tested positive for the same substance, and another from his cook Chandan Yadav.
Narsingh got the reprieve under rule 10.4 of WADA code. It says, “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.”
Athletes are rarely let off on this ground. In Narsingh’s case, the NADA panel took a sympathetic view because it 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.”