Ministry in a fix as NADA refuses to test Vijender for heroin
The National Anti-Doping Agency's refusal to test star boxer Vijender Singh for heroin has left the Sports Ministry flummoxed and it will wait for a written response from NADA before deciding its next move.
The NADA, which is an autonomous body, is willing to conduct a regular out-of-competition dope test on Vijender but has expressed its inability to test the Olympic bronze-medallist for heroin citing World Anti-Doping Agency's protocol. In response, the Ministry said it would decide on its next move after getting NADA's reply in writing.
"We have not asked NADA to proclaim anything on his guilt but just conduct a test to find out whether he took heroin... the NADA has not conveyed anything to us in writing, let them do that first and then we will think of our stand," Sports Secretary P K Deb told PTI.
The Ministry had stepped in yesterday to clear the air on the controversy but NADA's stand means that even a dope test would not give any conclusive evidence against Vijender, who has maintained a stoic silence after his initial denial.
"We will not be testing Vijender for heroin. We will strictly go by the NADA and WADA code. We are independent and will strictly follow the protocol for out-of-competition testing of an athlete irrespective of what the Sports Ministry has said," NADA director-general Mukul Chatterjee told PTI.
"There is no time frame in the letter which we have received from the Ministry, we will undertake the test when NADA finds it appropriate. "NADA can't go against the WADA code. The blood and urine test will be strictly conducted under the WADA code and the NADA rules. We cannot contradict the Sports Ministry as well as we are being funded by the government," he said.
Chatterjee said the dope test would be conducted on the boxer as per NADA's discretion. "We never disclose to anyone when and where the test will be conducted. This is prohibited under the WADA code. The last test which we did on him was in July-August 2012, it was negative," he said.
"In the WADA list of prohibited substances for out-of-competition, heroin is not there. It's correct that traces of heroin can be found out in a hair sample for a period of more than three months. "We can check on heroin within a time frame of blood and urine sample test...there is a limited time span but the hair sample has a larger time frame. So, neither NADA nor the NDTL can do a hair test because there is no protocol," he explained. On the other hand, despite mounting pressure, Vijender has kept mum on the scandal which is snowballing into a career-threatening controversy for him.
The Indian Boxing Federation, which itself is in doldrums after being suspended by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) for "possible manipulation" in elections, has advised Vijender to come clean on the matter.
"He should submit his samples if he is being asked and come out clean. We are in touch with him and he has maintained his innocence," said the suspended IBF's President Abhishek Matoria. Similar was the view of his formative coach Jagdish Singh, who said, "he should submit the samples and I am sure he would be proven innocent."
The 27-year-old Khel Ratna awardee has been adamant in refusing to give blood and hair samples for testing after being named by his sparring partner Ram Singh and heroin racket's alleged kingpin Anoop Singh Kahlon, who was arrested last month by Punjab Police. Vijender's name cropped up when his wife's car was found outside the Zirakpur flat from where heroin worth Rs 130 crore was recovered and Ram admitted to consuming drugs with him.
The former world number one middleweight boxer issued a statement initially denying that he took drugs but refused to give his blood and hair samples when asked by Punjab Police during a nearly two-hour interrogation more than a fortnight back. Even though he has not been tested yet, the Punjab Police has gone on to claim that Vijender consumed heroin 12 times after procuring it from alleged drug smugglers including Kahlon.
"As per investigation conducted so far, Vijender Singh consumed the drug about 12 times and Ram Singh (his sparring partner) about five times," a Punjab Police statement had stated without specifying the basis of the findings. Kahlon alias Ruby, the alleged Canada-based drug dealer, was arrested by police on March 3 and 26kg heroin was seized from his residence in Zirakpur on the outskirts of Chandigarh.
The Punjab police spokesperson said, "it has been established that boxers Ram Singh and Vijender Singh took heroin from Kahlon and his aide Rocky for personal consumption between December 2012 and February 2013."