A top Indian athlete was handed a provisional suspension by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) on Wednesday after testing positive for banned performance enhancing substance meldonium. Talking to a news channel, a top NADA official refused to disclose the athlete's name. He, however, informed that over 20 syringes of the banned substance was found in the athlete's hostel room.
Russian star Maria Sharapova, a former World No.1 in the women's tennis circuit, had also tested positive for the same substance at the Australian Open in 2016.
Left embarrassed after a track-and-field athlete was provisionally suspended for possessing banned substance meldonium, the Athletics Federation of India will seek details of the incident from its coaches stationed in Patiala before deciding the next course of action.
The yet-to-be-named athlete was suspended by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) after being caught with meldonium at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI), which has struggled with the doping menace for several years, has gone into a huddle and would be calling the coaches in Patiala to seek details.
"The AFI is planning to call the coaches, who are stationed in NIS to find out about the incident. There will be an internal meeting to work out the way forward," an AFI official told PTI.
The athlete faces the prospect of a four-year ban if guilt is established and he/she has until next Monday to explain his/her actions.
"We conducted a search operation at NIS Patiala hostel in conjunction with SAI authorities and found the banned substance in possession of a track and field athlete," NADA chief Navin Agarwal said.
"This search operation was conducted last month. I cannot disclose the identity and details of the athlete and he/she has been put under provisional suspension. He/she has been given time till Monday to explain the reason for the possession of the banned substance.
"He will face the NADA Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel and if found guilty will be handed a maximum ban of four years," he added.
Agarwal, however, denied that this was the first case involving meldonium, a substance which hit global headlines after tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive for it.
"This is not the first case of dope relating case involving meldonium but this is the first case of NADA charging an athlete for possession of a prohibited substance.
"This is under the new (WADA/NADA) rules effective from January 2015 whereby the possession of a banned substance is also declared illegal. This has not been implemented so far and this is the first time we are implementing this rule in the country," he explained.
Agarwal also ruled out any investigation against the athlete's coach as of now.
"The coach is not being investigated as of now but if the athlete says the substance was being supplied by the coach then we will look into it," he said.
AFI has been reeling under some high-profile dope scandals of late starting with sprinter Dharambir Singh, who was dropped from the Rio Olympic Games after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
He was subsequently banned for eight years. Shot-putter Inderjeet Singh was another high-profile athlete to flunk a dope test.
(With inputs from agencies)