NDTL under cloud over dope tests

Nirmala Sheoran

The samples of quarter-miler Nirmala Sheoran and four other athletes were sent to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited laboratory in Montreal after they turned negative at the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) here, casting a cloud over the Indian facility.

Nirmala, the reigning Asian Champion, tested positive for an anabolic steroid. The four others, middle-distance runners Sanjivani Yadav and Jhuma Khatun, discus thrower Sandeep Kumari and shot putter Naveen Chikara, have all tested positive for banned substances in re-tests done by the Montreal laboratory.

The samples of all five athletes were taken during the inter-state meet at Guwahati in June, the final selection trials for the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. All have been provisionally suspended.

Sanjivani, the bronze medallist in the women’s 5000m at the 2017 Asian Championships, failed a dope test for a masking agent. Barring her, the rest face a minimum of four-year suspensions for the use of anabolic steroids.

The samples of these five athletes had tested negative at the NDTL. It prompted suspicion in the readings. The samples were then sent for re-test to the laboratory at Montreal where they returned positive. Previously, the case of weightlifter Poonam Dalal also failing the dope test at the Montreal laboratory emerged after being given a clean chit by NDTL.

These incidents have brought into focus the efficacy of NDTL, and could well put it at risk of losing its accreditation.

Meanwhile, the Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla said he was not surprised by Nirmala testing positive for a banned substance as she had been regularly skipping the national camps. He insisted that was why she was not selected for the relay at the Asian Games.

“By and large those who are part of the national camp have not been caught because they are being regularly tested. Had we included Nirmala in the relay events, we would have lost two medals. That is why despite all the criticism, we excluded her,” Sumariwalla said.

“We are to have a clear policy about non-campers, who I now feel should not be allowed to be part of international meets. We have been saying it again and again that if you are not honest you will be caught. All those who get caught give great performances during the qualifying events, and then in the main events, their timings drop. It becomes very obvious. Despite the repeated incidents, some of the athletes have not understood the risk involved. I hope this episode will serve as a deterrent for others.”

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NDTL under cloud over dope tests

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