Kamalpreet Kaur provisionally suspended: Why, what happened and what next?

Kaur is now looking at a possible four-year suspension. AP Photo/Matthias Schrader

India's top discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur has been provisionally suspended for failing a dope test conducted by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

Kaur had made rapid strides last year and set a national record of 66.59m at the Indian Grand Prix IV in June to seal her berth at the Tokyo Olympics. She finished second in her group at Tokyo to advance to the final round, where she finished sixth with a best throw of 63.70m. It was the third-best performance by an Indian in a field event at the Games.

Kaur was touted as a strong medal contender for the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships this year. Taking note of her potential, the Athletics Federation of India had appointed a foreign coach, Steffen Reumann of Germany, to work with her and shot-putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor.

What did the AIU say?

The AIU said on Wednesday that it "has provisionally suspended discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur of India for the Presence/Use of a Prohibited Substance (Stanozolol), a breach of the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules."

Kaur was likely tested on March 29, six days after she threw 61.39 to win gold at the Indian Grand Prix II in Thiruvananthapuram. Interestingly, Kaur chose to skip the next event - the Federation Cup on April 2- citing a knee injury.

Kaur is now looking at a possible four-year suspension. If found guilty, she will be suspended for breaching Article 2.1 (Presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete's sample) and Article 2.2 (Use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method) of World Athletics' Anti-Doping rules that came into force from January 2021.

What happens now?

Kaur has three options now - (i) accept the offence and the suspension that follows, (ii) appeal for a reduced sentence by admitting to the violations instead of appearing for disciplinary panel hearing or (iii) appeal the suspension and ask for a hearing.

What is stanozolol?

Stanozolol is classified as an anabolic steroid and is in the list of banned substances as per World Athletics. Stanozolol gained notoriety when Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100m gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics after the traces of the steroid were found in his urine sample.

Why was Kaur tested?

The AIU had included Kaur in its Registered Testing Pool (RTP) this year. Being part of the RTP essentially means the athletes have to regularly inform the AIU about their whereabouts, during a pre-decided time window, each day.

The athlete will have to provide full quarterly whereabouts details and a 60 minute, no notice, time slot where they can be found without fail.

For example, if Kaur was given a time of 1 pm to 2 pm, then she is obliged to inform the AIU of her whereabouts every single day at that time period. The AIU, in turn, can choose any day to conduct a random test on the athlete, which could either be during a competition or off of it. The other Indian to feature on that list is Olympic champion, Neeraj Chopra.

What does this mean for Indian athletics?

Indian athletics was at an all-time high after Neeraj's Olympic gold, but the recent doping cases paint a very poor picture. In fact, the AFI had even organised a dedicated Indian Open Throws Competition in February this year after the Indian athletes' show at the Olympics.

India continues to be notorious for doping cases and is ranked third in the world, as per the latest World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report released in 2021. India had 152 cases of doping across disciplines, below only Russia (167) and Italy (157).