With the impending Budapest world athletics championships set to commence on Saturday, woman race walker Bhawna Jat has been pulled out from the Indian contingent by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Wednesday. The decision came in response to an anti-doping rule violation concerning a “whereabouts failure,” as indicated by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
Reports have confirmed that Bhawna, who recently participated in the Tokyo Olympics, has been provisionally suspended by NADA. An official familiar with the situation revealed that she was initially in Budapest with the team but was subsequently sent back to India by the federation following a communication from NADA regarding her whereabouts failure.
A “whereabouts failure” is constituted by a combination of three instances of “filing failure” or “missed tests” within a 12-month period. Athletes are mandated to provide accurate information about their whereabouts for one hour daily, termed as “whereabout filing,” to facilitate out-of-competition testing.
On August 10, NADA issued Bhawna a provisional suspension notice, to which she sought a stay. A prompt hearing was convened by a panel led by Sunny Choudhary, which dismissed her plea after determining that there was insufficient reason to grant a stay. Bhawna’s violations included missing two doping tests in May and June and one filing failure in the last quarter of 2022.
Bhawna, a prominent figure in India’s race walking scene, clinched gold at the Inter-State championships in the previous month with a time of 1hr 37min 3 secs. Her personal best in the 20km race walk (1:29:44) was achieved this year at the Indian Race-Walking Championships in Ranchi. While she had been the sole women’s race walker for the Budapest event after another 20km walker, Priyanka Goswami, withdrew, she is now unlikely to remain in the squad for the upcoming Asian Games.
This incident follows the withdrawal of three Indian athletes – shot-putter Karanveer Singh and sprinters Archana Suseendran and Anjali Devi – from the Asian Championships squad due to doping violations.
A recent investigation report by the World Anti-Doping Agency concerning NADA highlighted that the agency lacked “satisfactory oversight and management of whereabouts filings by athletes in the registered testing pool.” The investigation monitored select sports and athletes within India, revealing 97 whereabouts failures against 70 athletes out of the 131 athletes in NADA’s Registered Testing Pool.