CHENNAI: AN Indian boxer, who participated in the recent World Championships and looked bound for the Tokyo Olympics, failing a dope test is shocking in its own right. However, what has added to the intrigue is the substance that was found in her system — a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator (SARM) called ligandrol.
Ligandrol is an experimental drug that can potentially treat muscle wasting and osteoporosis but is still under clinical testing. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had been aware of the drug since at least 2015 and has included it in its list of prohibited substances. The US Anti-Doping Agency, on their website, claim that it’s ‘not legally available in medication anywhere in the world’. Multiple reports claim its use as a drug for racehorses. How this experimental drug, whose long-term effects are still unknown, found its way into the system of Neeraj Phogat remains to be seen.
The drug came to prominence earlier this year when Australian swimmer Shayna Jack tested positive for it. The drug has been found in the system of athletes as far back as 2015 and an NBA player Joakim Noah was suspended for 20 games.
Ashok Ahuja, former chief of centre for sports science at NIS (Patiala), says that ligandrol was not previously known to be available in India. “It must have found its way here from the CIS (post-Soviet) countries or from Central Asia,” he says.