The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has suspended the accreditation of (NDTL) for six months in a blow to India's anti-doping programme, the cost of which will rise significantly now. The lab, which got WADA accreditation in 2008, is no longer authorised to carry out testing of the samples as the suspension is effective August 20.
The development is a setback for India with less than a year left for the Tokyo Olympics. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) can still collect samples (blood and urine) but will have to get them tested by a WADA-accredited laboratory outside India.
"This suspension has been imposed due to non-conformities with the International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) as identified during a WADA site visit," WADA stated in a media release.
The WADA investigation found that the sample analysis methods of the NDTL were not up to the mark. The NDTL can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Lausanne in the next 21 days. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said the nation is in no position to bear the additional expense of sending the samples to a different country, most likely the WADA-accredited laboratory in Bangkok, Thailand.
It is feared that with the cost going up, the sample collection will come down drastically, casting a shadow on the anti-doping programme.
"It is a huge blow to Olympic Movement in India with Olympics just 11 months away. Indian National Sports Federations are in no position to bear extra cost," IOA President Narinder Batra said.
The WADA stated that its Laboratory Expert Group (LabEG) initiated disciplinary proceedings, with regards to the status of WADA-accredited laboratories, May earlier this year. "This process is now complete," the WADA stated. The NDTL has been instructed safely to move all the samples lying with it to an accredited lab. "The suspension, which took effect on 20 August 2019, prohibits the NDTL from carrying out any anti-doping activities, including all analyses of urine and blood samples.
During the period of suspension, samples that have not yet been analyzed by the NDTL; samples currently undergoing a confirmation procedure; and any samples for which an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) has been reported, must be securely transported to another WADA-accredited laboratory. The WADA has instructed NDTL to address all the non-conformities that LabEG identified during their site visit.
If the laboratory satisfies the LabEG in meeting these requirements, it may apply for reinstatement prior to the expiry of the six-month suspension period. "Should the laboratory not address the non-conformities by the end of the six-month suspension period, WADA may extend the suspension of the laboratory's accreditation for up to an additional six months," the world body asserted.
It will be a tricky situation for the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) after it forced the BCCI to come under the NADA umbrella after dogged resistance from the Board for a decade.
"This is a tricky situation now for MYAS and NADA. It should ideally go to a lab in Asia. It will be cost-effective," said Parth Goswami, a Sports Lawyer specialising in anti-doping.
NADA is expected to carry out close to 5000 tests in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics next year. "NADA will have to bear the cost. This will be a big burden considering the number of tests NADA conducts," Goswami said. NADA had claimed in 2018-19 that it tested 4348 samples including 466 blood samples.
This number is likely to reduce unless the ministry or the respective National Sports Federations bear extra cost for testing outside.
"NDTL can appeal this decision to CAS. Let's see if they do it. Or are they willing to accept their fault," he said.
Lesser testing could mean more dope cheats being caught during competitions abroad, which would lead to major embarrassment for the country and in tainted sports like weightlifting, it could even end up with India's suspension.