Johnson speaks out over Naser’s missed tests

The talk of the athletics world over the past few days has certainly been the “whereabouts failure” issue with World Champion Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain.

The compact and petite athlete who had one of the more dominate performances in athletics in recent memory at last year’s Doha World Championships, was provisionally suspended by World Athletics (WA) for missed drug tests. According to reports, Naser missed three tests over a 12-month span, constituting a violation of the anti-doping code, and then missed a fourth test in January.

It is unknown if she was tested at the Doha World Championships. Nigerian-born, Naser, 22, 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.

She won the women’s 400 meters (m) world title in a blazing 48.14 seconds – the third-fastest time in the history of athletics, and the fastest since 1985. Pre-race favorite Shaunae Miller-Uibo, 26, of The Bahamas, finished second in an area record and personal best of 48.37 seconds – making her the sixth-fastest in the history of that event.

Naser’s “whereabouts failure” issue has raised questions in various athletic circles around the globe, and has certainly peaked the interest of thousands of fans of athletics here in The Bahamas. If Naser is stripped of the world title, Miller-Uibo would be in line for gold. Additionally, Naser could miss next year’s Olympics, clearing the way for Miller-Uibo to repeat as Olympic Champion in the women’s 400m Tokyo, Japan, in the summer of 2021.

Former triple world record holder Michael Johnson of the United States, a leading analyst for athletics for BBC Sport, said on Twitter that the issue must be dealt with.

“I’m only going to focus on the facts. My understanding is three missed drugs tests in a year results in an automatic two-year suspension. From this article, looks like she’s not disputing the three missed tests in a year, so we’ll see you in 2022. Done.”

Johnson has a valid point as it relates to the missed tests. Any three missed tests in a 12-month period constitutes a doping violation if the athlete or athletes in question can’t justify why they weren’t available – considered just as punitive as a positive test. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) confirmed on Sunday that Naser was under scrutiny for three missed doping tests – believed to have been prior to the Doha World Championships last year. Still, she was allowed to run.

Former World and Olympic Champion Johnson is calling for more stringent measures.

“Missing three tests in a year must result in a minimum four-year ban and considered the same as a positive test. Positive tests must result in minimum four-year ban regardless of substance,” said Johnson on Twitter. “I believe the sport can legally increase the punishment for missed tests. Increase the punishment to four years and you’ll see fewer missed tests. Two gives the presumption of innocence already. Maybe it’s not labeled as equal to positive but punishment should be.”

Understandably, Miller-Uibo is remaining quiet on the issue. According to reports, her management team has advised her to remain silent during the investigation and ensuing trial.

President of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) Drumeco Archer said the issue isn’t one that evokes any feeling of his at this particular time, but added that it is always great news when it operates in The Bahamas’ favor.

If Naser’s suspension is upheld, and depending on whether it is retroactive or not, she could certainly lose the world title and also be unavailable for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Naser has a right to appeal the process.

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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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