[Exclusive] No power to test out-of-sport drug use: WADA

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Vijender Singh

The world’s top anti-doping agency for competitive sports has suggested it does not have the power to test Indian boxer Vijender Singh, who has been accused of consuming heroin, because heroin is not a performance enhancing drug. “Under the World Anti-Doping Code (Code), there are no sanctions for out-of-competition adverse analytical findings (positive tests) for this substance,” an official of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) told TEHELKA on Thursday in an email response to a questionnaire.

The WADA’s position contradicts a claim Indian Sports Minister Jitendra Singh had earlier made that the global agency was empowered to run such tests on the boxer.

The Indian counterpart of WADA, the National Anti Doping Agency, has already said it would not test the boxer because that would contradict the WADA protocol it abides by. The sports ministry had directed the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) to do so.

The email from WADA declined to answer a specific question whether it would test the boxer, but cited the rule. “Heroin is a substance that is prohibited in-competition (and not at all times) and falls under the S7 category (Narcotics) of WADA’s Prohibited List and that Article 2.6 of the Code provides for athletes found in possession of a prohibited substance or method.” The agency said it was not involved in the test, which is he responsibility of the competent organisation based on its anti-doping and intelligence programs.

Punjab Police had on 31 March alleged that the 2008 Beijing Olympic medallist Singh had consumed heroin 12 times after procuring it from alleged drug smugglers including an NRI, Anoop Singh Kahlon. Canada-based Kahlon alias Ruby, who is the alleged drug dealer, was arrested  on 3 March. Police said they seized 26 kg of heroin worth Rs 130 crore from his house on the outskirts of Chandigarh. Vijender’s name had cropped up in the drug haul case after an SUV owned by his wife was found outside Kahlon’s residence with some of the contraband on 7 March.

“Since NADA follows the rules laid down by WADA, it  cannot legally force Vijender to undergo these tests because in sports law, heroin is only a banned substance when an athlete is in competition,” Lovely Dasgupta, who teaches sports law at the National University of Juridical Sciences at Kolkata, told TEHELKA. “It is not a performance enhancing drug that is banned at all times for a sportsperson.”

The boxer can only be prosecuted under the narcotic laws following a criminal investigation, says Dasgupta. “In keeping with sports laws, this should not affect his professional career in the form of a ban or otherwise.”

In 1991, Argentinean footballer Diego Maradona was suspended from football for 15 months after failing a drug test for cocaine in Italy. In 1994, he was sent home from the World Cup in the US after he tested positive for ephedrine. WADA lists ephedrine as a prohibited substance when its concentration in urine is found to be higher than is permissible. Maradona tested positive again in 1997 which got him another suspension.

In 2000, American boxer Mike Tyson earlier refused to a pre-test fight but tested positive for marijuana right after the fight which led to the suspension of his boxing license for three months. Marijuana too is a prohibited substance for an athlete when he/she is in competition. Since it is not a performance enhancing drug, when out of competition, an athlete is only liable to be prosecuted or fined as any regular US citizen would for possessing or consuming marijuana.

In 2009, Michael Phelps was photographed in 2009 by a British tabloid smoking marijuana at a private party, he was banned for three months by USA swimming as a disciplinary measure for letting down young swimmers who considered him a role model.

Former boxer and Asian Games Gold medalist, Dingko Singh, is not inclined to believe that Vijender could be heroin addict in view of the fact that he has never tested positive for banned substances during competitions. “In our time, say 1998-1999, the WADA officials used to take us straight from the ring for two or three tests after each fight,” he says. “I’m not too sure about the rules now but if he consumed drugs regularly, he would’ve certainly been caught by now.”

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