Doping row: Suspended Indian athlete national 400m hurdles champion
A NADA statement said it has slapped a provisional suspension on the athlete, who, according to sources, is Jithin Paul, who could face a four-year ban for having performance-enhancing drug in his possession.other sports Updated: May 25, 2017 09:38 IST
Doping controversy has hit Indian athletics again with the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) seizing banned drug meldonium from a national camper’s possession at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala late last month.
The incident, coming as Indian athletes prepare for the Asian Championships to be held in Bhubaneswar from July 6, is the first instance of banned drug, including syringes, being found in the possession of a top Indian athlete.
A NADA statement said it has slapped a provisional suspension on the athlete, who might face a four-year ban for having performance-enhancing drug in his possession.
The substance was tested in the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) in New Delhi which confirmed Meldonium, the drug for which tennis star Maria Sharapova was handed a 15-month ban. Under the revised World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) rules which came into effect in January 2015, possession of banned substances is also illegal.
Sources told HT that NADA officials had raided the room of national 400m hurdles champion and 4x400m relay squad member, Jithin Paul, between April 21-23.
The raid was conducted while the athlete was in the training ground and the banned drug found. Paul has never failed a dope test in his six-year athletics career.
The Railways runner is a member of the core group of 4x400m relay team. He was in the Indian relay team that participated in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Incheon Asian Games. He was a standby for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Still in camp
Despite the provisional suspension, Paul is still in the national camp, which has now been shifted to the hilly Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh to escape Patiala’s heat and humidity.
An official associated with the national camp said on condition of anonymity: “Paul is training with other members of the relay team. He will compete in the senior Federation Cup at Patiala from June 1-4.” The Patiala meet will also act as a qualifying event for the Asian meet.
Relay squad in focus
Jithin Paul coming under the NADA scanner also brings the other top 400m runners into focus as they train as a group at the national camp. The 400m runners also have a common coach, Kuhni Mohammed.
On May 15, in the third leg of the Indian Grand Prix meet held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here, Kerala’s Muhammed Anas won the 400m with a national record of 45.32 seconds. His performance helped him qualify for the World Athletics Championships in London in August. Anas is Paul’s training partner.
Paul clocked a modest 48.39 seconds in the 400m at the meet, finishing overall ninth.
Kuhni Mohammed is also overseeing the core group of women’s 4x400m relay team, which is also training in Himachal Pradesh. He didn’t respond to phone calls on Wednesday.
Coaches in huddle
Banned substances and syringes were found in the last week of April, but the Athletics Federation of India and Sports Authority of India (SAI) kept the issue under wraps until NADA DG, Navin Aggarwal, reportedly told a TV channel.
On Wednesday, chief coach Bahadur Singh and national camp coordinator Sanjay Garnaik held a meeting with other coaches at Patiala. The chief coach, however, didn’t respond to phone calls from HT.