While handing down a four-year ban on Indian wrestler Narsingh Yadav, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) has ruled that the wrestler failed to produce any "real evidence" regarding the sabotage theory he had advanced and the balance of probabilities" was that he orally took the banned substance intentionally in tablet form on more than one occasion.
In its full award, the ad hoc panel of the CAS relied on expert evidence that Narsingh's dope offence was not due to one-time ingestion of the prohibited substance and its concentration in the first test result (of June 25) was so high that it had to come from an oral ingestion of one or two tablets of methandienone, rather than from a drink where the powder had been mixed with water.
The expert opinion was given by Professor Christiane Ayotte from Canada who was presented by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Professor Ayotte is a member of International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) Doping Commission since 1995 and was elected representative of the Heads of International Olympic Committee (IOC) Accredited Laboratories in 1995-1996. She is currently the director of the WADA-accredited laboratory in Montreal.
Narsingh's urine sample taken out-of competition on June 25 was found to contain metabolites of methandienone and long term metabolite of methandienone. Another sample taken out-of-competition on July 5 was also found to contain long-term metabolites of methandienone.
"...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," the CAS panel said.
The CAS had handed Narsingh a four-year ban in its 'operative award' on August 18 barely hours before his 74kg freestyle opening bout was scheduled.
"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," the full award said.
Narsingh had submitted that the doping offence was due to sabotage carried out by Jithesh (a junior wrestler and a member of Sushil Kumar's entourage) by mixing his energy drinks with prohibited substance on either June 23 or 24.
The panel also noted that the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) had heard three persons -- Paswan, Rahul Kumar and Pankaj Kumar, who had confirmed that they had seen Jithesh trying to contaminate Narsingh's food earlier on June 5 by pouring some powder into the curry.
Narsingh also cited some earlier decisions of the CAS which had considered circumstantial evidence but the ad hoc panel of the top sports tribunal went with the expert evidence.
The panel said that "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."
It also ruled that the room-mate's (Sandeep Yadav) ingestion was not at the same time.
"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," the panel said.
Vidhuspat Singhania, the counsel for Narsingh, who appeared before the panel via video conference, had also argued that the drinks might have been spiked twice. But the panel did not consider this argument.
Regarding the criminal case filed against Jithesh at a Sonepat police station, the WADA said that if any decision was rendered at a later stage by a criminal court in India which confirmed the alleged sabotage, then any award made by this panel could be reviewed by the Supreme Court in Switzerland where the CAS is based.
The NADA was also one of the respondents in the case and it objected to the jurisdiction of the CAS on the ground that it had 21 days to appeal against the ADDP decision and so should be allowed to do this before WADA could appeal. The NADA also argued that the case was not in connection with the Olympic Games.
The ad hoc panel of the CAS rejected NADA's objection and went ahead in deciding the case on merits.
WADA's expert Ayotte argued 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. She said that the ingestion was from a therapeutic dose, rather than from a suspension in water.
"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," said Ayotte, a leading independent scientist on anti-doping research.
WADA argued that Narsingh has failed that his doping offence was not intentional.
"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 WADA 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," it said.