CAS rules that Narsingh Yadav intentionally took banned substance
In what comes as a huge judgement to the Narsingh Yadav doping incident, The Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) had given wrestler Narsingh Yadav a four-year ban and has ruled that the wrestler had failed to produce any “real evidence” about his sabotage theory. The ruling also said that the “balance of probabilities” was that the Indian orally and intentionally took the prohibited substance in tablet form on more than on occasion.
The ad hoc panel of the CAS had relied on expert evidence that Yadav’s dope offence was not due to a single ingestion of the banned substance and that the concentration of the substance in the first test result which was held on June 25 was so high that it could only have resulted from an ingestion of one or two tablets of methandienone. The panel also clearing stated that such high amounts of the banned substance cannot be found in the body if the powder had been mixed with water.
It was first reported that Narsingh’s urine sample taken out-of-competition on June 25 was found to have contained long-term metabolites of methandienone. Hence, another sample was taken from the wrestler on July 5 where it was again found that results showed there were long-term metabolites of methandienone.
A section of the report of the CAS panel reads, “...all in all found the sabotage (s) theory possible, but not probable and certainly not grounded in any real evidence. The panel, therefore, determined that the athlete had failed to satisfy his burden of proof and the panel was satisfied that the most likely explanation was that the athlete simply and intentionally ingested the prohibited substance in tablet form on more than one occasion."
It came as a huge shock to the nation when CAS had handed Narsingh Yadav with a four-year ban from competition on August 18, barely hours before he was scheduled to take part in the men’s 74kg freestyle competition in Rio.
The award of the penalty by the panel also read, “The panel had to weigh circumstantial evidence of the athlete against scientific evidence of WADA to determine whether it was satisfied with the athlete's position that he did not take the prohibited substance intentionally. The panel is conscious that expert evidence offered by Professor Ayotte may be susceptible to qualification by other expert(s). However, the panel has no reason to question the scientific data and/or her expert testimony.”
It should be noted that Yadav had previously submitted that the doping offence occurred due to the sabotage being carried out by a junior wrestler named Jithesh who was also a member of Sushil Kumar’s entourage. Yadav had said that the young wrestler had mixed the substance in his energy drinks on either June 23 or 24.
The panel also said that acting on Yadav’s statement, the Anti-Doping Panel of the NADA had also heard three persons (Paswan, Rahul Kumar and Pankaj Kumar) confirming that they had seen Jithesh trying to contaminate Narsingh’s food on June 5 by adding some powder into his curry.
Narsingh had previously cited some earlier decisions of the CAS which had considered circumstantial evidence but this time, the ad hoc panel of the CAS went with the expert evidence whose decision has gone against the wrestler.
It should also be noted that the panel said, “the reading of the long-term metabolite in his second test (July 5) was consistent with the second ingestion towards the end of June 2016.” The verdict also read that Yadav’s roommate’s (Sandeep Yadav) ingestion was not at the same time.
The panel said, “He (Sandeep) had the parent compound of methandienone in his test results, so he must have taken the substance after the athlete (Narsingh), as opposed to both having their drinks spike at the same training session.”
Narsingh’s counsel, Vidhuspat Singhania, had appeared before the panel via video conference, and had argued that the drinks might have been spiked twice. But unfortunately for Narsingh, the panel did not consider this argument.
The WADA also said that if any decision is rendered at a later stage which would confirm sabotage by a criminal court in India regarding the case filed against Jithesh at a local Sonepat police station, then the ruling made by this panel will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in Switzerland which is the headquarters of the CAS.
The National Anti-Doping Agency of India was the first to respond regarding this case and had objected to the jurisdiction of the CAS on the ground that it had 21 days to appeal against the ADDP decision against the wrestler and so they should have been allowed to do this before the WADA made the appeal to CAS. The NADA also argued that the case was not only in connection with the Olympic Games.
NADA’s objection was rejected by the ad hoc panel. The panel said that WADA’s expert Ayotte argued in her report that there was at least 12 to 20 hours difference between the ingestion of the prohibited substance by the athlete and by his room-mate Sandeep. The report also mentioned that the ingestion was from a therapeutic dose and not from a suspension in water.
Ayotter, who is a leading independent scientist on anti-doping research said, “The long-term metabolite reading in the athlete’s first sample was 4ng/ml, yet 10 days later the long-term metabolite reading in the second sample was 20ng/ml. While the reading can increase, it would only do so in the first 2 or 3 days after ingestion. As there was no trace of the parent compound in the first reading, the likely ingestion was a few days before 25 June 2016. The conclusion is that the long-term metabolite in the second Test (July 5) was from a different (second) ingestion of the prohibited substance.”
The WADA also argued that the wrestler had failed to prove his innocence in the doping offence. It said, “He cannot establish the source of the prohibited substance. He has merely claimed that his drink must have been spiked during a training session on 23 or 24 June 2016. There is no evidence relating to this, only evidence that his food was allegedly tampered with some 20 days before.”
The apex body also said, “Further, according to the expert evidence of Dr Christiane Ayotte, methandienone would not completely dissolve in a drink even if it had been ground down, so the athlete (Narsingh) would have seen traces in the drink; the concentrations of methandienone were not consistent with a few micrograms having been ingested as a dispersed powder in a drink taken even the day before, and by the time the second sample of 5 July 2016 was taken, the concentration of the long-term metabolite was too high to be consistent with a one-time ingestion.”