Dope-tainted Akkunji and six others banned for a year

India's leading six women quarter-milers, including Asian Games double gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji, were banned for one year by the national anti-doping disciplinary panel yesterday and their hopes of running in the 2012 London Olympics were hanging by a thin thread.

Three jeers: CWG gold medallists Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose and 
Mandeep Kaur were given one year suspensions. PIC/Getty images

Mandeep Kaur, Sini Jose, Juana Murmu, Priyanka Panwar and Tiana Mary Thomas were the other athletes banned by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). Ashwini, Mandeep, Sini, Priyanka and Tiana had tested positive for stanozolol and epimethandiol while Murmu's test showed traces of epimethandiol. 

All six are first time offenders but instead of a two-year ban they were given a one-year sentence since the three-member anti-doping disciplinary panel was of the view that the athletes didn't take the banned substances intentionally. The panel came down hard on their Ukrainian coach Yuri Orgodonik, who was sacked after the scandal came to light.

Male long-jumper Harikrishnan Muralidharan was also suspended for two years late yesterday. Chairman of the panel Justice (retd) Dinesh Dayal, reading out the judgment here at the NADA headquarters, said the six athletes have been suspended for a year. Hockey Olympian Ashok Kumar and Dr NK Khadiya were the other members of the panel. 

"The six athletes have been suspended for a year under clause 2.1 of Anti-doping Rule. The period of suspension is effective from today. But the term of provisional suspension will also be taken into consideration," said Dayal.
"We did not find any significant fault on the part of these athletes on how the banned substance entered their bodies and they will get reduced penalty under clause 10.5.2 NADA rule. Two athletes � Mary Tiana Thomas and Jauna Murmu � were tested twice in May and June and they cannot be held guilty on two counts," he added. 

The panel in its order blamed Ogorodnik for the doping scandal. "In fact the defence taken by the athletes is an admission of the facts that their coach had given them the nutritional supplement and that there were Prohibited Substances in the nutritional supplement, Ginseng Kinapi Pil being administered by the coach," the NADA order read.

Tested positive twice
Mandeep and Murmu were tested in the last week of May while the others were tested during the second fortnight of June. The ban will come into effect from the date of their suspension, that is from the last week of June for most of them. The cut-off date for Olympic qualification for athletes is July 8 and the relay teams July 2.

Ashwini, Mandeep and Sini were part of the women's 4x400m relay team that won the gold in the CWG and the Guangzhou Asian Games, both in 2010. 

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