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Neelam has a weak defence

November 10, 2005 20:18 IST

Discus thrower Neelam Jaswant Singh is likely to be found guilty of doping by the four-member panel formed to hear her case, one of the panelists indicated on Friday.

"There is no difference in her 'A' and 'B' samples collected in Helsinki. Moreover, such a high class laboratory at such an elite event is not likely to have procedural lapses," former athletics legend G S Randhawa said on Friday.

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Neelam is following the strategy adopted by middle and long distance runner Sunita Rani, who tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone at the 2002 Busan Asian Games, Randhawa said.

"Neelam is following in the footsteps of Sunita Rani who claimed that there were procedural lapses in her drug tests," he said.

According to her counsel, Sushil Salwan, the dope testing facilities at the World Athletics Championship in Helsinki could have been responsible for Neelam's positive test.

Interestingly, Salwan headed the inquiry panel that went into Sunita Rani's case and was instrumental in the athlete getting her 1500m gold medal back on "technical grounds" after her 'A' and 'B' tests showed a difference in nandrolone content.

But Randhawa said that line of defence is unlikely to work in Neelam's favour.

Neelam, who was represented by Salwan at the last panel hearing, has also claimed that the vitamin supplements she took could have resulted in the positive dope test, but Randhawa said, "We are not focusing on that aspect."

"We have got all the information we needed and are waiting for a written submission from the athlete which is likely to come in a couple of days," he said.

Then the panel would again discuss the case before submitting its report to the Athletics Federation of India.

The panel, headed by Tamil Nadu Amateur Athletics Federation president Walter Dawaram, has Adille Sumariwala and Girish Tyagi as the other members.

The panel was previously expected to submit the report by the end of October.

Neelam tested positive for pemoline in an in-competition check at the World Athletics Championships at Helsinki in August. When her 'B' sample also tested positive, the International Association of Athletics Federations provisionally suspended her.

If she is found guilty by the panel constituted by the AFI, she faces a two-year ban.

But the athlete can bring the 'exceptional circumstances rule' to either seek the setting aside of the suspension or reduction of the period of suspension.

To get such a verdict, Neelam would have to establish how pemoline entered her system. A mere allegation or suggestion will not suffice.

If the panel agrees with her, the matter would be referred to the IAAF Doping Review Board whose decision would be binding on the AFI.

The Board would decide whether any exceptional circumstances existed to warrant leniency.

If found guilty by the game's international governing body, Neelam would have the option to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The IAAF can also appeal there if it disagrees with AFI's decision in the case.

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