The Sports Ministry has decided against conferring Renjith Maheswary the prestigious Arjuna award, as the triple jumper was found to have used a 'scheduled' substance (ephedrine) back in 2008.
The decision puts an end to all speculation regarding his fate.
After detailed investigation, the Ministry has come to a conclusion that Maheswary used ephedrine during the 46th National Athletics Championships in Kochi.
The sample was collected on September 8, 2008, and given to the National Dope Testing Laboratory on September 15, 2008.
NDTL on October 3, 2008, analysed the A-sample of Maheswary and reported levels of ephedrine far above expected even when the drug is consumed for therapeutic purposes.
Maheswary had not reported using ephedrine for medicinal purposes during collection of the sample and was suspended by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) pending inquiry.
The case was heard by the inquiry committee of the AFI and Maheswary was given an opportunity to present his case as well. The triple jumper, however, did not request an analysis of his B-sample.
On January 10, 2009, Maheswary was handed a ban for three months, starting 13.10.2008. This was communicated to him by the Director of the AFI.
There was some doubt regarding the acceptability of the sample from Maheswary. It was also possible that the report of the National Dope Testing Laboratory might not have been an acceptable 'Adverse Analytical Finding', and that the chain of custody of the sample might not have been sufficiently foolproof.
However, the Ministry noted that Maheswary never protested against the findings of the inquiry committee or the punishment awarded by the competent authority. His acceptance of the punishment, despite the flaws in collection and analysis of the sample, made the punishment final.
The Ministry took into consideration that Maheswary was never found guilty of using a performance-enhancing substance since 2008 and that was the only instance, to the knowledge of the government, in which the athlete was involved in a doping-related incident.
Nevertheless, the rules for the Arjuna awards are explicit: 'Any person who has been found to have used a prohibited or scheduled substance cannot be given the Arjuna award.'
The Ministry, meanwhile, has also noted the failure of the AFI to provide full details of the case.
A statement from the ministry read: "In the absence of records from the AFI, the details of the event had to be reconstructed from other sources. The AFI has been asked to explain this inability to provide critical information. They have also been asked to explain how they nominated Maheswary for the Arjuna award in the first place."
The ministry has also decided to create a new set of "Standard Operating Practices" so that such incidents are not repeated.
On August 31 this year, hours before he was to be presented the Arjuna award, Maheswary was told under dramatic circumstances that he will have to wait for the coveted honour till an inquiry on whether he had failed a dope test five years back is completed.
Image: Renjit Maheswary
Photograph: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images