NADA bans six Indian athletes for a year
India's six top women athletes, including Asian Games double gold-medallist Ashwini Akkunji, were, on Friday, handed one-year bans for flunking dope tests earlier this year, virtually ending their chances of participating in the London Olympics next year.
All the six quartermilers -- Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose,Mary Tiana Thomas, Priyanka Panwar, Jauna Murmu and Akkunji -- who flunked dope tests for banned steroids were not present when the decision was announced at the National Anti-Doping Agency headquarters in New Delhi.
All of them can appeal against the bans to NADA appellate panel but their lawyers said they would assess the judgement before taking a decision on that.
Athletes not found guilty of intentionally taking substances
NADA panel head Dinesh Dayal announced a reduced penalty period as the athletes were not found guilty of intentionally taking the banned substances.
The maximum suspension stands at two years for first-time violators.
"We find all the six athletes guilty of doping violations under clause 2.1 of Anti-doping Rule. The date of suspension begins from today and any period under provisional suspension shall be credited in their penalty period which is one year," he said.
"We did not find any significant fault on the part of these athletes on how the banned substance entered their bodies and they will get reduced penalty under clause 10.5.2 NADA rule. Two athletes -- Mary Tiana Thomas and Jauna Murmu -- were tested twice in May and June and they cannot be held guilty on two counts," he said.
Akkunji set to miss the 2012 Olympic bus
Akkunji, who won gold in 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay in the Asian Games will not be able to participate in the London Olympics as she will have to serve ban period upto July 3 2012 as she was handed provisional suspension on July 4 this year.
A top Athletics Federation of India official said that Olympic qualification period ends on July 2 and the last qualifying event is scheduled for June 29 and 30, 2012.
"The last qualifying event is on June 29 and 30 and qualification period ends on July 2. They also will need a reinstatement test after their ban period is over which under IAAF will have to be thrice," the official said.
But the banned athletes have a slim chance of making it to London if their replacements manage to qualify for the Games as the final say on who represents India in the event rests with the AFI.
Only one reinstatement test for the athletes
NADA Director General Rahul Bhatnagar said that under its rules, there will be only one reinstatement test.
"We will follow NADA rules and we will have only one test which can be done the next day after their ban period is over. The results should come within 48 hours," he said.
Mandeep, one of the members of the women's 4x400m relay quartet who gold in Asian Games, was provisionally suspended on June 23 along with Murmu.
Jose, also a member of the quartet, and Mary Tiana Thomas were suspended on June 30. Priyanka Panwar was suspended along with Akkunji on July 4.