New Delhi: The National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) has banned athlete Jithin Paul for four years after it was found that the 400-meter hurdler was in possession of a prohibited substance called 'Meldonium', the drug that brought shame to tennis star Maria Sharopova in 2016.
Paul, who is a 400m hurdles National Open champion and a 2016 South Asian Games silver medalist, becomes the first Indian athlete to be sanctioned for such an offense.
Meanwhile, the quartermiler on Friday said he will appeal against the sanction as he has been 'framed'.
"I am going to file an appeal to the Anti-Doping Appeal Panel very soon. We have got 21 days from the date of the order," Paul told PTI.
The banned drug was recovered from Paul's room during a surprise raid on the hostel premises of a few athletes and coaches at NIS Patiala on April 17 last year. Interestingly, Paul has never tested positive - in-competition or out-of-competition.
The 27-year-old Kerala athlete, however, claimed that NADA had fabricated the case as he was not in possession of any substance which has Meldonium in it.
"NADA has framed me by fabricating a case. Only Carnitine injection was recovered from my room and I have admitted it. This Mnaapohat (chemical formula of Meldonium) was never recovered from my room. I only came to know about this (Mnaapohat) on May 22 when I was served a provisional suspension," he said.
Paul's counsel Parth Goswami termed the decision of the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel "shocking" and said his client has been denied "natural justice". Goswami said Paul was not given the seizure memo when the raid took place in April last year.
"This is shocking. It is an established procedure that a copy of the seizure memo in a proper format is given to the athlete that these A, B, C substances were recovered from him. Even during dope testing, an athlete is given a copy of the dope test form," he said.
"How will an athlete have a record in his possession about which substance was recovered from him? The NADA official ought to have provided it there and then at the time of seizure. This is natural justice and my client has been denied natural justice."
Goswami said instead of giving a seizure memo, Paul was told to sign on an envelope.
"Nothing was given to my client in writing regarding which substances have been seized from his room. That envelope was produced only during the hearing."
Paul said that he signed on that envelope after writing that Carnitine injection was found from his room.
"When I signed the envelope, there was only Carnitine injection written on it and not Mnaapohat. There were also cuttings on the envelopes which shows that this injection Mnaapohat was squeezed in to fit in above my signature."
NADA's submission, included in the final order of the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel, simply said that, "the sealed envelope was prepared on the spot and the signature of the athlete was also taken upon the same". NADA submitted that its officer sealed the envelope in the presence of the athlete.
Paul also raised a few objections about procedural lapses. The NADA, in three different documents, has a different number of Meldonium seizures. In its report dated April 18, 2017, the agency mentioned 20 injections were seized, but in its notice sent to Paul dated May 22, 2017, the number quoted is 10.
The NADA submitted that the numerical writing/over-writing on the envelope was a clerical error and the same was corrected in front of the athlete. The Anti-Doping Panel accepted NADA's submission, saying that the "clerical error does not have an effect on the laboratory analysis results, that is Meldonium".