Relevance of the Case of Amar Muralidhar vs. National Anti Doping Agency (“NADA”) in Sports Law

Anshumaan Bahadur
8 Sep 2015 1:08 PM GMT
Relevance of the Case of Amar Muralidhar vs. National Anti Doping Agency (“NADA”) in Sports Law
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Once a law student graduates and opts for Litigation, he or she is encountered with so many areas of practice that it becomes very difficult for them to wait and introspect as to which area should they chose. Therefore, in my opinion, with my limited experience of only one year and incessant discussion with my seniors practicing in court, one must not shrink their platform to any specific area of law at this early stage. The fresh law graduates who opt for Litigation should be willing to get exposed to different areas of law as their minds are inquisitive which in turn triggers their hunger, devotion, exaltation and fanaticism for knowledge and learning.

Coming back to the theme of the article, this article relates to Law of Anti Doping in Sports. Frankly speaking, I never had the interest or opportunity to research and learn about any aspect of Sports Law during my college days. Whenever Sports Law crossed my mind, I used to think that there is limited scope under this subject. To my surprise when I pro-actively researched on anti doping in sports law, I had a drastic change of opinion. But first, it becomes mandatory to make the readers understand how the anti doping sports law came into existence in our country.

During 1998 Tour de France cycling competition, French police raided several hotels of the cycling teams and found an enormous amount of banned substances in their possession. World Anti Doping Agency (“WADA”) was created in 1999 by the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) to counter the continuing problems of doping in sports. In 2004 WADA implemented the 2003 Code, which was revised and became effective on January 1, 2009. In the year 2007, WADA through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”), which is an agency of the United Nations, asked nations to sign a treaty to incorporate doping laws nationally. Article 23.2.1 of the WADA Code states that, “the Signatories shall implement applicable Code provisions through policies, statutes, rules or regulations according to their authority and within their relevant spheres of responsibility(WADA, Code 116 (2009)).” Article 22.4 of the Code asks each Signatory’s government to bring domestic regulations of anti-doping “into harmony with the Code”. In India National Anti Doping Agency (“NADA”) was established under the Societies Registration Act, 1890, on 24th November, 2005. On 7th March, 2008, the NADA accepted the WADA Code.

This is the basic nexus of events pertaining to how Anti Doping Laws gained its relevance in the World and then in India. Now we can come to the question that how this case is of any relevance in anti doping laws. Last year, my senior gave me the opportunity to research in the case of Amar Murlidharan vs. NADA. This case was also followed and addressed briefly by media. The athlete had approached Court of Arbitration of Sports before the Sole Arbitrator and we were representing NADA. It seemed like any other case to me back then. But on a careful scrutiny of the facts and law I realized the importance of this case.

Brief facts of this case are as follows:

  1. In August 2010 the athlete, Amar Murlidharan had participated in 64th National Aquatic Championships in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
  2. He was randomly selected by NADA to provide a urine sample for anti-doping control test. He was one of the 39 athletes who gave their urine sample of dope test.
  3. The samples were transported to laboratory situated at New Delhi.
  4. In the month of September 2010, the athlete was notified by NADA that the Dope Tests were positive, technically meaning that the Adverse Analytical finding was found in athlete’s sample.
  5. There was a presence of a Prohibited substance classified by World Anti Doping Agency (“WADA”) named ‘methylhexaneamine’ in short “MHA”.
  6. The proceedings are first argued before the Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (“ADDP”).
  7. In September 2012, the ADDP imposed 2 year ban on the athlete in accordance with Article 10.2. The Panel concluded that there was a violation of Article 2.1 of the NADA Rules hence the ban is justified.
  8. The Athlete approached the Anti Doping Appeal Panel (“ADAP”) on November, 2012. After substantial delays, in June 2014 the appeal of the athlete was dismissed upholding the finding of ADDP.

In order to understand why this case is important in the field of anti-doping laws one must know the procedure which is followed in the NADA Rules in general. The procedure is that NADA sends notice to the athlete. Then the case is heard in ADDP, if any of the aggrieved party or parties wish to appeal against the decision of ADDP they can approach ADAP, and then the appeal can further be made to Court of Arbitration of Sports (“CAS”) for Arbitration, having its seat at Lausanne, Switzerland. But the procedure is not uniform for every class of Athlete. Under Article 13.2.1 of the NADA Rules, the International Level Athletes can appeal to CAS after exhausting the remedy to appeal to ADAP, whereas under Article 13.2.2 of the NADA Rules, a National or any other athlete can appeal only to ADAP and not to CAS. National Level Athlete appealing against the decision of ADAP to CAS is not possible.

Here lies the importance of this case. Amar Murlidharan being a National Level Athlete approached CAS. The Rules have made it crystal clear that no National Level Athlete can approach CAS. The matter being entertained by CAS, made this case India’s first ever dispute where a National Domestic Athlete went to any International Arbitration Tribunal against the order of the Domestic Anti Doping Panel. NADA had pressed that the issue of Domestic Level Athlete should not be entertained by CAS as this would be an act beyond their jurisdiction. CAS heard the appeal de novo because the Sole Arbitrator found that NADA had waived any such objection to CAS Jurisdiction. NADA had not objected to the CAS Jurisdiction as per the Rule 39 of the CAS Code. The Sole Arbitrator did not give the Arbitral Award in favour of the Athlete, however this case is a good international precedent because of its unique question of law pertaining to jurisdiction of National Level Athletes before CAS. If any of the readers would like to read the Arbitral Award passed by the Sole Arbitrator in this case, they can very well do so by going to CAS website.

Primary reason to share this experience is that this case holds a relevant precedent nationally and internationally for any signatory country of WADA. There is an express bar on the National Level Athletes that they cannot approach CAS as per their convenience against the Rules laid down in the Anti Doping Codes. The precedent can be used by the National Level Athlete in his or her favour, only if the Doping Agency of their respective Country has waived of their right to object to CAS Jurisdiction. Since the publication of the arbitral award on April, 2015, the case was not appreciated and its importance was also not addressed. Therefore, through this article, I am making just a small attempt to elucidate the scope of anti doping in sports law in India. If you ask me now, I feel lucky to get a glimpse of Anti Doping in Sports and it’s a serendipity that I got the opportunity to research for this case.

The law students should become aware of the exposure which Sport Law has to offer. The same could be said for any other transitional subject of law which has its own beauty in its own way. As I had mentioned in the introductory part of this article, one should not limit themselves only to the traditional subjects but there should be flexibility to encounter new areas which law is offering because what matters is the journey and not the destination.

Anshumaan Bahadur is an  Associate at Kanth and Associates.
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