The Rowing Federation of India (RFI) on Tuesday launched an investigation into the failed dope tests of 22 junior national team scullers as the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) called for the body to ‘introspect’.
The rowers, all aged under 18, tested positive for probenecid, a drug used to treat gout. Probenecid is slotted as a masking agent banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Their samples were collected in July last year during a training camp in Hyderabad. Pointing at the 11-month gap between sample collection and test results, RFI secretary MV Sriram said a procedural lapse could not be ruled out.
However, NADA director general Navin Agarwal dismissed the theory. “That (the 11-month gap) does not matter. It happened because soon after we collected the samples, the National Dope Testing Laboratory was suspended and we had to send the samples to a laboratory outside India,” Agarwal said. “What is important is that 22 rowers have tested positive. The federation should introspect and find out what went wrong.”
The rowers have waived off their right to get their B samples tested since that process will be carried out in Doha, where their urine samples were analysed. For a B sample test, athletes have to be present themselves and the international travel restrictions rule out that possibility.
The federation, however, has defended the rowers and said the failed tests could possibly be because of contaminated supplements. “It has to be the food supplements used which have resulted in 22 positive cases out of the 32 tested. We are also perplexed by the findings. All due procedures will be followed and we will find out what went wrong,” Sriram said.
The administrator added that the supplements consumed by the rowers were recommended by the coaches and approved by Sports Authority of India. The athletes were included in the national training camp following their performances in last year’s Khelo India Games, Sriram said.
Agarwal did not rule out contamination of supplements. “I don’t know who has given this argument but it could be one of the possibilities. At the same time, they may not have taken due care in selecting the supplement. The federation has to examine what went wrong,” he said.
Since probenecid falls under the ‘specified substance’ category of the WADA, the rowers could escape with a lenient sanction and not the four-year ban imposed otherwise. WADA defines prohibited substances as ‘specified’ and ‘non-specified’ to ‘recognise that it is possible for a substance to enter an athlete’s body inadvertently.’