'He must have taken something unknowingly. Maybe he was taking some Ayurvedic medicine to treat his injured knee and that might have contained some banned substances.'
Olympics-bound Indian wrestler Sumit Malik has been provisionally suspended after failing a dope test during the recent Qualifiers in Bulgaria, a major embarrassment for the country with just weeks left for the Games in Tokyo.
It marks the second consecutive instance of a wrestler being caught in dope net before the Olympics -- the previous being ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics when Narsingh Pancham Yadav had failed one and was slapped with a four-year ban.
Malik, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 125kg category at the World Olympic Qualifier event in Sofia, Bulgaria which was the last chance for wrestlers to earn quotas.
The 28-year-old's participation at the main event starting July 23 seems uncertain now.
"We got a mail from the UWW (United World Wrestling) on Thursday that Sumit has failed the dope test and he has been suspended provisionally. The substance found in his sample is said to be 5-methylhexan-2-amine (1,4-dimethylpentylamine)," Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) secretary Vinod Tomar said.
"We are surprised by this. He must have taken it unknowingly, he has a clean track record. Let's wait for the result of his B sample," Tomar added.
Non-specified substances are usually anabolic steroids and specified substances are stimulants.
A Delhi-based sports lawyer Parth Goswami contends that since this substance is a specified one, Malik cannot be suspended provisionally.
"As per the WADA code 2021, in cases where an athlete is found positive for a non-specified substance, the athlete is placed under mandatory provisional suspension till the case is finally decided and during this time athlete cannot compete," Goswami said.
"However, in a case involving a specified substance, the athlete is given an option of accepting provisional suspension. In case the athlete does not voluntarily take provisional suspension, he/she can participate in competitions till the matter is finally decided by the appropriate panel," he added.
Goswami cited the 2019 case of weightlifter Swati Singh, who was handed a similar suspension.
"I had handled that case of Swati Singh. The IWF had sent a notice to IWLF imposing provisional suspension in a case of specified substance. When this was protested, the IWF immediately corrected this position," he said.
Lucknow-based sports medicine expert Dr Saranjeet Singh explained the substance found in Malik's sample.
"It is a specified substance, detectable in urine. It definitely is a stimulant. If his B sample is also positive, he can be banned.
"Weightlifter Cristofer Martinez had tested positive for the same stimulant and USADA had announced on January 10, 2020 that Martinez has accepted a two-year suspension for an anti-doping rule violation," he said.
Malik has been nursing a knee injury that he suffered during the national camp before the Olympic Qualifiers began at different venues.
He had competed at the Asian Qualifiers in Almaty in April but did not succeed in earning the quota.
He then competed at the Asian Championship at the same venue and returned medal-less.
However, at the World Olympic Qualifiers in Sofia held in May, Malik earned the quota by reaching the final, which he forfeited due to the same injury.
To let his injured knee heal completely before the Olympics, Malik was also planning to skip the exposure trip to Poland that the WFI had arranged for its Tokyo-bound group.
"He must have taken something unknowingly. Maybe he was taking some Ayurvedic medicine to treat his injured knee and that might have contained some banned substances," said the source.
"But these wrestlers should have been careful, they know the risks involved by taking such medicines," he added.
It is clear that by the time hearing takes place and a verdict comes out, he would miss competing at the Olympics.
The only way out for him is if UWW decides to expedite the matter, keeping in mind that Olympics are nearing.
India earned eight wrestling quotas for the Tokyo edition of the Games with four men and as many women wrestlers qualifying.