Dipa Karmakar suspended for 21 months - Explained

Dipa Karmakar will remain suspended until July 10, 2023. AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

India's top gymnast Dipa Karmakar is serving a 21-month suspension after testing positive for prohibitive substance higenamine. The ban was confirmed by the International Testing Agency (ITA) on Friday.

Karmakar, on Saturday, put out a statement accepting the suspension. She also stated that she will return to the sport in July this year as the ban was reduced by three months and also been backdated by two-and-half months. The suspension is effective until July 10, 2023.

Who is Dipa Karmakar?

Karmakar, from Tripura, is among India's most notable gymnasts in recent times. She first came into prominence at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where she won a bronze medal in the women's vault final - the first Indian woman to win a Commonwealth Games gymnastics medal.

She also won a bronze medal at the Asian Championships and later became the first Indian gymnast to qualify for a final stage at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships 2015. She finished fifth in the event.

Karmakar's biggest achievement was a fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics. At the big stage, she successfully performed a difficult Produnova vault but missed out on a medal.

However, she has not competed since the 2019 World Cup in Baku.

When was her sample collected?

The positive sample was collected on behalf of the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) in an out-of-competition test on October 11, 2021. According to the ITA, the case has been resolved via a resolution agreement pursuant to article 10.8.2 of the FIG Anti-Doping Rules.

Why has the news of her suspension been confirmed now, 15 months after she tested positive?

Karmakar had been identified as a suspended athlete by the FIG last year. At that time, GFI president Sudhir Mittal responded by saying that the federation did not receive any communication from the FIG. All doping test results are confidential until the federation makes the name public, which happened on Friday.

According to a PTI report, "other GFI officials went to the extent of saying that the "suspended" status could be due to other issues, like ethical or disciplinary, not related to doping violation."

There were no comments then from Karmakar or her coach Bisheshwar Nandi.

What does article 10.8.2 of the FIG Anti-Doping Rules state?

In this particular context, it means that Karmakar had admitted to the doping offence and for that she has received a reduction in her suspension period.

According to 10.8.2 Case Resolution Agreement of FIG, "Where the athlete or other Person admits an anti-doping rule violation after being confronted with the anti-doping rule violation by FIG and agrees to consequences acceptable to FIG and WADA, at their sole discretion, then: (a) the Athlete or other Person may receive a reduction in the period of Ineligibility based on an assessment by FIG and WADA of the application of Articles 10.1 through 10.7 to the asserted anti-doping rule violation, the seriousness of the violation, the Athlete or other Person's degree of Fault and how promptly the Athlete or other Person admitted the violation; and (b) the period of ineligibility may start as early as the date of sample collection or the date on which another anti-doping rule violation last occurred. In each case, however, where this Article is applied, the Athlete or other Person shall serve at least one-half of the agreed-upon period of ineligibility going forward from the earlier of the date the Athlete or other Person accepted the imposition of a sanction or a Provisional Suspension which was subsequently respected by the Athlete or other Person."

What is higenamine?

According to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), "higenamine is a substance found in a variety of plant sources and herbs used for traditional medicine. Research indicates that higenamine has mixed adrenergic receptor activity, meaning it may act as a general stimulant. It may be found in some pre-workout, energy, or weight-loss products."

How did Karmakar consume the banned substance?

According to her statement, Karmakar unknowingly ingested the banned substance and could not determine the source. She added, "It has been distressful to not know how the substances entered by body, more so to be in a position where my ethics have been questioned. Never in my career has the thought of consuming a banned substance crossed my mind. Gymnastics is all I have, and I would never do anything which would bring myself or my country into disrpute."

What is ITA?

The International Testing Agency is an independent dope testing agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The ITA manages various anti-doping programs on the request of international federations.