Sports

British athletes question decision to allow Naser to run

Bahamian Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo may not be speaking out on the provisional suspension of her rival Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain, but other athletes are.

Great Britain is one of those countries that was denied a medal at last year’s Doha World Championships with Naser’s participation. Naser ran five 400 meters (m) in six days in Doha, climaxing the period with the third-fastest time ever in the women’s 400m, and the fastest since 1985, to win individual gold. Over the first three days of competition, she ran in both the heats and final of the mixed 4x400m relay, leading Bahrain to the bronze medal.

The United States won the gold in a new world record of 3:09.34, Jamaica was second in a national record time of 3:11.78 and Bahrain denied Great Britain the bronze, finishing third in an area record of 3:11.82. Britain settled for fourth in an area record of 3:12.27.

Naser has been provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for “whereabouts failures” after she missed a series of doping tests last year. She missed a fourth one in January.

However, her missed tests prior to the Doha World Championships is what is raising questions. British athletes are asking why she wasn’t suspended to the running of the world championships a year ago.

Naser said in an Instagram Live video on Friday that she was not a drug cheat and that missing three drugs tests “is normal” and “can happen to anybody”, according to an account of her broadcast published by NBC.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” said Naser. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat. Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened. It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Obviously taken aback by her comments, Martyn Rooney, who ran the anchor leg for Britain in the mixed relay, told Telegraph Sport that it should have been pretty straightforward that she wouldn’t be allowed to run.

“I understand that she’s a big name and a big name for the Middle East and they want as much local coverage as they can get, but it casts doubt on the point of the whole AIU if they are going to let people run even if they’ve missed three tests,” he said. “I understand there’s protocol and everything has to be done properly, but if there’s suspicion then take her out of the game. Why was she allowed to compete?”

Emily Diamond, who ran the third leg for Britain in that race, said: “It really makes you lose faith in those who are meant to be protecting the sport that someone could potentially be breaking the rules, but yet they are allowed to compete. The worrying thing as well is her belief that it’s normal. For an elite athlete to come out and say that is almost as worrying as her being able to compete having missed three tests.”

It is unknown if Naser was tested during the world championships in Doha, Qatar. She turned in one of the single greatest performances of the meet, blazing to victory in the women’s 400m in 48.14 seconds – almost a full second faster than her previous best time. Pre-race favorite Miller-Uibo settled for second in an area record and personal best time of 48.37 seconds, making her the sixth-fastest in the history of that event.

Athletes are required to provide regular updates on their whereabouts to make it possible for anti-doping authorities to carry out surprise testing outside of competition. A violation means an athlete either did not fill out forms telling authorities where he or she could be found, or that athletes weren’t where they said they would be when testers arrived.

Any three missed tests over a 12-moth period constitutes a doping offense, punishable by a two-year ban from the sport. It’s as punitive as a positive test.

Naser ran both rounds of the mixed 4x400m relay in Doha, and then came back and ran three rounds of the open women’s 400m – all in six days.

The AIU oversees all anti-doping cases and disciplinary measures in athletics and makes recommendations to World Athletics (WA) based on its findings. WA is the global governing body of the sport.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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