Important lessons for athletes on doping sabotage: A review of WADA v. Narsingh Yadav
In the months leading up to the Olympic Games, Indian wrestler Narsingh Yadav had been embroiled in a dispute between Sushil Kumar and the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) over the selection procedure for the Olympic berth, wherein Kumar challenged the WFI’s decision to select Yadav over himself to compete at the Games in the 74kg category. Ultimately, the WFI prevailed and Yadav’s selection for Games was upheld (a full review of that dispute is available here1).
However, in an intriguing turn of events, Yadav tested positive for an anabolic steroid2, which he claimed he had ingested after being sabotaged. The matter was referred to India’s National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), who accepted his claim of sabotage3 and gave him a clean chit to compete at the Games. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) stepped in and appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)4, asking them to set it aside. Given the proximity to the Games, the matter was heard in Rio by the CAS Ad Hoc Division5.
This article reviews Yadav’s case, looking specifically at:
- The facts of the case
- The domestic hearing by India’s NADA
- The appeal to the CAS Ad Hoc Division
- Author’s comment
On 15 July 2016, Narsingh Yadav (and his roommate and training partner Sandeep), tested positive for prohibited substances6. Yadav tested positive for metabolites of methandienone, while Sandeep’s sample revealed the presence of the parent substance (methandienone) as well7. On 22 July 2016, following a provisional suspension, Yadav’s B sample confirmed the finding of the A sample.
Consequently, Yadav was provisionally suspended by NADA. Subsequent to providing NADA with a list of food and supplements constituting his diet, Yadav filed a police complaint, alleging sabotage, supplements receiving a clean chit from the National Dope Testing Laboratory. Yadav’s contention in this regard was that at the time of collection of his sample – which was 25 June 2016 – he was looking to reduce weight in time for Rio, and Methandienone is a steroid which would have contributed to a weight gain.
The facts of the case assume a dubious tinge owing to the history leading up to the event. The story preceding the decision involves an allegation of sabotage, with Yadav alleging that his energy drink had been intentionally contaminated by a member of Sushil Kumar’s entourage on either 23 or 24 June, 20168. Yadav’s wrestling partner also claimed to have spotted the same person in the kitchen, a restricted area, on 5 June 20169.
Yadav appealed to NADA on the grounds of sabotage and subsequently, the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) chose to qualify his case under Article 10.4 of the NADA Anti-Doping Rules, which states that:
“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.” 10
The reference to Article 10.4 clarifies further that the rule is to be applied only in exceptional circumstances in situations where the athlete could ably prove that despite all due care, one had been sabotaged by a competitor. Accepting the defense in this particular case, the ADDP ruled in favour of Narsingh Yadav,11 basing its decision mostly on the fact that the wrestler had no prior history of doping. The ADDP concluded that:
“…the athlete deserves the benefit of Article 10.4 of the Anti-Doping Rules of NADA 2015 as there is no fault or negligence on his part and he is a victim of sabotage done by a competitor.” 12
Following this exoneration however, WADA chose to file an application to the CAS Ad Hoc Division, disputing the ADDP’s ruling.13Since the decision has not been published, it is difficult to analyse ADDP’s reasoning behind such a conclusion. However, WADA duly chose to file an appeal against the ruling, which has been analysed below.
CAS Ad Hoc Proceeding
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- Tags: Anti-Doping | Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) | Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) | India | Indian National Anti-Doping Agency | Olympic | Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro 2016 | Paralympic | WADA Prohibited List | World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) | World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) | Wrestling
- Olympic selection disputes: Sushil Kumar v Wrestling Federation of India
- Rules, scope and jurisdiction of the CAS Ad Hoc and Anti-Doping Divisions at the Olympic Games
- A summary of the CAS Ad Hoc Division decisions at the Rio Olympic Games
- Life as a CAS arbitrator at the Rio Olympic Games - Mark Hovell - Episode 35
About the Author
Saurabh is a lawyer working as counsel for Star India Pvt. Ltd. He is also associated with the Football Players Association of India (FPAI). He received his B.A./LLB from The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, and was a recipient of the Graduate Scholar Award at the Fifth International Conference on Sport and Society in July 2014. He has previously worked with organisations such as Adidas and Atletico de Kolkata, a franchise in the Hero Indian Super League.