Govt orders dope tests on Vijender Singh
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on Monday asked the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to conduct an out-of-competition test on Olympic bronze medallist boxer Vijender Singh, who is accused of consuming heroin by the Punjab Police.
The ministry in a statement said reports of Vijender consuming heroin 12 times were “disturbing” and could have “debilitating influence” on other sportspersons.
“It has, therefore, been considered necessary that NADA gets a test carried out on Vijender Singh for his reported use of heroin even out-of-competition. The communication has asked NADA to carry out the test immediately under intimation to the Ministry,” a ministry release stated.
The move, however, has raised a string of questions on the procedure the ministry has adopted to get a test conducted by an independent agency. The very decision to ask NADA to conduct the test is questionable. NADA and National Dope-Testing Laboratory (NDTL) are independent in their functioning as per the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code.
Sports Secretary P K Deb cleared the air when he said they have only “requested” NADA to conduct the tests. He, however, said if found positive, Vijender would be barred from camps conducted by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
“We have requested NADA to carry out the tests. We don’t expect it to come out with an answer whether it is willing to conduct the tests or not, until and unless the samples are positive. Our only intention is to cut the uncertainty that has been around,” Deb told Deccan Herald.
“We are not going to judge Vijender on the basis of press reports. But if his sample turns out to be positive, he will not get into SAI camp.”
However, such a step would trigger a breach of a series of WADA rules. Heroin or Diamorphine comes under the class S7 (narcotics), which is prohibited in-competition.
Meaning, if and when the NADA tests Vijender, no test would be conducted by the NDTL for heroin consumption since the sample collected will be tested only for substances that are banned out-of-competition. Also, an out-of-competition test is a “no-advance-notice” test. In this case, after such wide-spread publicity, the whole purpose of not giving an advance notice to an athlete becomes redundant.
Importantly, it flouts the WADA ruling of keeping the identity of an athlete a secret. The identity of the athlete should not be revealed when his sample comes for testing at the laboratory.
However, NADA Director-General Mukul Chatterjee insisted they were an independent and autonomous body and would adhere to protocols.
“The standard protocol of NADA or WADA does not allow an out-of-competition test for heroin since it is prohibited only in-competition,” Chatterjee said.
“We will test Vijender. But when the sample goes to the National Dope-Testing Laboratory the sample will be marked as collected out-of-competition, so the NDTL officials will not test the sample for heroin.”