ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 34

Who is guilty?

On 16th January 2007 the disciplinary committee of the SAG Medical Unit was scheduled to come out with the verdict of the findings on charges levelled against Lankan sprinter Jani Chathurangi who tested positive of taking the performance enhancing drug Nandrolene when she was tested after her ‘silver’ wining performance at the Games in August.

It’s all in there the magic of it. The victorious team together savouring the moment. Pix by Gayan Amerasekera

In spite of her being subjected to a two year ban on all representative sports if the verdict came in a negative manner accused Jani and her posse of lawyers did not look very perturbed. On seeing that even the press who had gathered there got a notion of things to follow. Then a few minutes later the SAG disciplinary committee chaired by Presidents counsel Wijedasa Rajapakse cleared Chathurangi describing that tough she was not found not guilty of the first charge she was unhitched on a technical charge in the manner the way the Tests were conducted.

The technical hitch was that on the 25th of August when she was tested her reading of Norandrosterone was 27.25nano grammes and then on 26th August barely twenty four hours later her testing on the same issue read a much different 14.25nano grammes. It also must be noted that Professor Ravindra Fernando who headed the SAG medical probe on the matter was of the opinion that if any athlete was found with a reading of over two nano grammes of Norandrosterone in their urine samples they could be in hot water.

However from day one the Amateur Athletic Association of Sri Lanka was of the view that the whole case regarding the Jani issue was being handled wrong and were very vehement in saying that it was they (AAASL) who had the authority to probe and the SAG medical unit should hand over all relevant documents into their custody and they would continue with the proceedings. AAASL was of the view that they are the accredited agents of the International Amateur Athletic Federation and they were the only body that could take any action in a case of this nature.

At the same time the SAG medical unit was also very stubborn and was of the view that it was they who were empowered by the National Olympic Committee to probe into matters of this nature and what had occurred during the South Asian Games came under their purview and they had no obligation whatsoever to hand over any material to the AAASL.

The yo-yo contest between SAG medical unit and the AAASL was continuing in this manner and on 31 October 2006 Dr. Ravindra Fernando’s probe committee found the said athlete guilty of the charged offence. But, the SAG Medical Probe team only could have probed into the matter, but it was the SAG disciplinary committee who was empowered take any action against the offending athlete.

However from October 30th things dragged on and were almost at a standstill, but step by step it was slipping away from the public eye.

Then on December 23 Dr. Geethanjan Mendis, the head of the Medical Unit of the Ministry of Sport who incidentally headed the SAG Medical Unit too told our newspaper “Chaturangi had hired a lawyer to represent her. There were some questions which were directed by her lawyer which we as doctors could not answer. As a result Presidents Counsel Ikram Mohammed was retained by the organizing committee of the South Asian Federation Games to answer these submissions. He had submitted his report to the head of the Disciplinary Committee President’s Counsel Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe on December 13. Rajapakshe in turn will submit his committee’s recommendation to the IAAF/AAA sometime this week,”.

Dr. Mendis added there was positive proof that Chaturangi had taken the banned performance enhancing drug Nandrolone. He based this on the fact that there was a high level of the substance in the urine sample taken and tested by Professor Ravindra Fernando. “The punishment can be anything from a slap on the wrists to a two year ban”,

However this gave the public their first insight to the fact that the Medical Unit was losing its grip on the issue and the final outcome was rather predictable.

Now what does this all mean? Jani Chathurangi who was not entirely cleared of using performance enhancing steroids walked out scot-free on a technical point.

Why? To my mind this is a direct result of bickering at the top of the ladder and not uniting to perform duties that are of utmost importance to the well being of sport in this country. Just see the repercussion that this could have on the future generation of athletes in this country. They will all know if the case is handled in a proper manner they have more than a chance of getting off the hook and the daring always would be tempted to test their luck and fate on this dangerous commodity and hold the rest of the athletic community to ransom where integrity is concerned.

Finally as the voice of the general public we feel that this is a classic example of a case grossly mishandled. The case ended in a win-win situation for those interested and the arguments could go on and on forever, but, who is there and who could be held responsible for this huge faux-pas?

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.