India goalkeeper Subrata Paul has tested positive for a banned substance, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) said on Tuesday.
"His sample A has tested positive," AIFF secretary Kushal Das told Reuters.
"The banned substance is terbutaline. According to the NADA letter to AIFF, Subrata is under provisional suspension," Das later told PTI
Terbutaline is a bronchodilator and is taken when people have trouble breathing or a medical condition such as asthma. It is also present in commonly-used expectorants administered for cough and cold. But, athletes must apply for a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) certificate if they want to
use asthma-related drugs. According to WADA, terbutaline is placed in the category of 'beta-2 agonists', which is prohibited at all times (in competition and out-of-competition)
National Anti-Doping Agency chief Navin Agarwal confirmed the former India captain was tested by NADA officials in March but declined to elaborate further.
The 30-year-old was India's number one choice under the bar before slipping down the pecking order, behind Norway-based Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, in recent times.
Paul did not take calls when Reuters contacted him.
"It's now between him and NADA. He has to decide whether he wants his B sample tested," Das said.
"But of course if he needs guidance, the federation is always there."
Asked if Paul can still play for his club DSK Shivajians in their last I-League fixture at home against Minerva Punjab on April 30, Das said, "He can apply for a B sample test as well as simultaneously appeal for the lifting of this provisional suspension.
"Once he appeals (for lifting of this provisional suspension), he can play but in case the NADA Panel rules against his appeal whatever match he has played after NADA's intimation to us that he has failed his A sample test will be forfeited (his club will be declared to have lost the match)."
The 30-year-old Paul said he will go for the 'B' sample test and claimed that he will prove his innocence.
"I am shocked at this news that I failed a dope test. I have not got any official communication from the NADA or the AIFF. I am getting to know about this from the media. I will prove my innocence as I have played the game with honesty and integrity in my career of more than 10 years now," Pal said.
"I will request for the 'B' sample test as I believe that I have not done anything to fail a dope test. All the players were tested during the Mumbai national camp and I never thought that my sample will return positive," he added.
Paul, who made his India debut in 2007 and went onto represent the country 64 times till 2015, said he has achieved most of whatever he had set out for in his career. And there is no reason for him to do cheat and risk tarnishing his reputation.
"The AIFF officials, the fans, fellow players and the media knew that I have been an honest player throughout my career. I have built up a reputation and I have achieved a lot in my career, for my clubs and for my country. At this point in time of my career, I do not need anything like taking a banned drug to enhance my performance.
"So, I am shocked at this development. My reputation is at stake and I want to clear my name. That is why I will go for the 'B' sample test," he said.
Paul, from West Bengal, has been one of India's finest goalkeepers. He was the number one goalkeeper during the time Englishman Bob Houghton was at the helm of affairs as India coach and Bhaichung Bhutia as the captain.
He played a major role in India winning the Nehru Cup international tournament in 2007 and 2009.
Paul's heroic performances under the bar were also instrumental in India winning the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup in Hyderabad, which led to the qualification for the AFC Asian Cup held in Doha in 2011.
In that tournament, he was referred to by the media as the 'Indian Spiderman' due to a series of spectacular saves he made in the three group matches, especially against South
Paul was part of the Indian squad which played against Cambodia in an international friendly (March 22) and against Myanmar (March 28) for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, but did not make it to the playing eleven.
He played for NorthEast United in the 2016 Indian Super League season and he is currently playing for DSK Shivajians in the I-League. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2016.
Doping in Indian football is rare. Before Paul, former Mahindra United defender Arun Malhotra was perhaps the first high-profile footballer in the country to be banned after he failed a dope test in 2002. He was stopped from joining the team for the Asian Games in Busan.
In 2011, Nishant Mehra tested positive for a banned substance and was banned by NADA for two years.
Later in 2015, Mumbai FC's Dane Pereira tested positive for a banned substance taken by NADA after an I-League match against Royal Wahingdoh at the Cooperage stadium in Mumbai.
Image: Subrata Paul
Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters