India flouts WADA code again

Suspended athletes Ashwini, Mandeep training at NIS in Patiala

India have flouted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code once again. Two of the country’s leading female quarter-milers, who were suspended last year for doping offences, have been training at the NIS Patiala under the patronage of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Sports Ministry.

Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur, who along with Sini Jose, Tiana Mary Thomas, Priyanka Panwar and Jauna Murmu, were the ones to land in the dope net in 2011, have been training at the NIS for the past few months, against provisions in the WADA Code and the UNESCO Convention against doping in sports.

The WADA Code prohibits suspended athletes being given official support and they being allowed participation in a national training camp. Ashwini and Mandeep have not only been training at the NIS they have also been trained by a foreign coach and an Indian coach, at the cost of the public exchequer.

The girls were suspended for one year following anti-doping rule violations in 2011. After four of them — Ashwini, Priyanka, Sini and Tiana — lost their appeal before the appeal panel, they approached the Delhi High Court and got a favourable decision that allowed them training facilities at SAI centre, Sonepat.

Subsequently, all the six suspended girls lost their case at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) where an appeal was filed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). They were banned for two years.

The four girls moved the High Court against the government decision which barred them from training at any SAI facility. They cited the Olympic qualifiers and the Olympics as their reason for needing training facilities since their suspensions, at that stage, were expected to end before the Olympics. However, the CAS decision came shortly after the ruling and snuffed out their hopes of Olympic participation.

Curiously, Mandeep was not among the four girls who had moved the High Court. Sources say Mandeep is training at Patiala under N Ramesh, who is in charge of the 400M team, while Ukrainian coach Anatoli Varda is training Ashwini, in complete defiance of the WADA Code.

Article 10.10.1 of the WADA code says “an ineligible athlete cannot participate in a training camp, exhibition or practice organised by his or her national federation or a club which is a member of that national federation.”

SAI admitted the athletes were training at Patiala but found nothing wrong in it. "The court order wasn't only for Sonepat. There is a national camp going on in Patiala and if a coach wants to train them, we cannot stop it,” a SAI official said.

To give a government-hired coach to suspended athletes even violates the UNESCO convention against doping, to which the government of India is a signatory.

It says: “Take steps to withhold sport-related financial support to individual athletes or athlete support personnel who have been suspended following an anti-doping rule violation, during the period of their suspension.”

The last time when reports of the dope-tainted athletes training at the Sonepat centre appeared, government hastened to remove the athletes from the venue. However, following the High Court order they were allowed to use the facilities at Sonepat.

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