Indian race walker Sunil Vishwakarma has tested positive for a banned substance, according to reports. The 23-year-old's 'A' sample tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), a performance-enhancing drug banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Although Sunil Vishwakarma’s ‘B’ sample is yet to be tested, the development has become a major roadblock in his bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. He has been provisionally suspended from competing in all national and international events. The Uttar Pradesh native's samples were tested at Belgium’s WADA accredited lab.
During the National Race Walking Championship in Ranchi last month, NADA had collected 10 urine samples, with one athlete failing the dope test. If proven guilty, Sunil Vishwakarma could be handed a four-year ban.
EPO is basically used to enhance the endurance of an athlete, as per Sports Medicine expert Ashok Ahuja.
“It is a blood booster. It increases the presence of red blood cells in the body that aid the oxygen carrying capacity of an individual and props up performance in distance events,” Ahuja was quoted as saying to IANS.
He also stated that the drug can also be used for patients with chronic kidney disease.
“It is easily available over the counter, without a doctor’s prescription. One vial would cost between Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500,” Ahuja added.
Three Indian race walkers have qualified for Tokyo Olympics
During the men’s Group B 20km race, Sunil Vishwakarma finished first among the 18 participants. His timing was 1:28.09s, far from the Tokyo Olympics qualification mark of 1 hour and 21 minutes.
So far, Haryana’s Sandeep Kumar and Rahul Kumar have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics from the men’s Group A. In the women’s Group A 20km race, Uttar Pradesh’s Priyanka Goswami has booked her ticket to Tokyo.
NADA has collected as many as 40 samples during the Indian Grand Prix series and National Race Walking competition in February.
In addition to Sunil Vishwakarma, another female athlete has also tested positive for a banned drug. Her name has not been officially declared.