Updated April 19th, 2024 at 14:59 IST

Runner Shalu Chaudhary cleared of doping after DNA test reveals contamination in sample

The National Anti-Doping Agency's appeals' panel has exonerated middle-distance runner Shalu Chaudhary of doping charges and lifted her four-year ban after DNA testing revealed that her urine sample had either been tampered with or contaminated at the time of collection.

Athletics | Image:Olympics.com
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The National Anti-Doping Agency's appeals' panel has exonerated middle-distance runner Shalu Chaudhary of doping charges and lifted her four-year ban after DNA testing revealed that her urine sample had either been tampered with or contaminated at the time of collection.

The 30-year-old Chaudhary was banned last year after she lost her appeal to NADA's disciplinary panel. She was suspended for the alleged use of two substances including a stimulant and peptide hormones.

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The runner, who is a national-level medallist in 800m, subsequently sought a DNA testing of her urine sample, a plea that was rejected by the disciplinary committee but accepted by the appeals panel. The DNA testing was eventually conducted at the Forensics department of King's College, London.

"The A and B samples from the previously analysed urine sample produced extremely poor partial DNA profiles, presenting as a mixture of two female individuals in similar proportions," the appeals panel order stated.

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The order further stated that "in the light of the DNA sample report, the counsel for NADA is not able to point out any other factor which would persuade the Appeal Panel to reject the case of the athlete." "The counsel for NADA fairly accepted the DNA report and has not challenged the findings of the same.

"In view of the aforesaid facts, the order dated 11.04.2023 passed by the learned Anti Doping Disciplinary Panel is set aside. Accordingly, sanction of four years imposed upon the athlete is also set aside as well as consequential directions of forfeiture of competitive results w.e.f. 13.06.2022 is also set aside," the panel added.

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The panel also directed NADA to refund the Rs 1.5 lakh collected from Chaudhary for the DNA testing within a period of 10 days from the order, which was passed on April 18.

Chaudhary's defence centred around the contention that her positive dope test was either a result of tampering or contamination of her sample during the sample collection.

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Her plea for DNA testing of the urine sample was initially dismissed by the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel in April last year.

Undeterred, Chaudhary, represented by advocates Parth Goswami and Akshay Kumar, took her case to the Appeal Panel.

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The two lawyers underscored precedents where DNA testing had been permitted, citing a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and a previous decision by NADA in the case of motorsports athlete Vijay Singh.

The Appeal Panel, in October last year, accepted Chaudhary's request for DNA testing, emphasising the need for fairness and discretion in such matters.

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"I am pleased to announce that the appeals panel's decision to exonerate Shalu Chaudhary validates our longstanding assertion of innocence," Goswami said in a statement.

"While I am relieved by this outcome, I am deeply saddened by the toll it has taken on Shalu's career, with nearly two years unjustly spent under the shadow of these allegations. Our focus now turns to restoring her reputation and allowing her to resume her rightful place on the track.

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"The impact of such errors by officials on an athlete's career cannot be understated. The consequences can be devastating, not just professionally but personally as well," added Goswami. 

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Published April 19th, 2024 at 14:59 IST