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Miller-Uibo’s chief rival provisionally suspended

World Champion Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain, has been provisionally suspended for “whereabouts failures”. She is under investigation for three missed doping tests prior to the World Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year.June 8, 2020Sheldon Longley1779Views

It appears that Bahamian Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo might just receive that elusive world title after all.

Multiple media outlets are reporting that Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain, was already under investigation for missed doping tests prior to the World Athletics (WA) World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year.

Running her fifth 400 meters (m) race in five days, Naser shocked the world, circling the track in an amazing 48.14 seconds – the third-fastest time in the history of athletics, and the fastest since 1985. Miller-Uibo wasn’t a slouch, running a new area record and personal best of 48.37 seconds for the silver medal – making her the sixth-fastest in the history of the event. With that silver, Miller-Uibo’s two-year unbeaten streak, covering 26 events, was snapped.

For the past few days, the talk has been of Naser’s missed tests, though. The Nigeria-born sprinter, who runs for Bahrain, had a fourth missed test in January. 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.

After it was revealed that Naser was provisionally suspended on Friday for missed tests, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) confirmed on Sunday that she had been under scrutiny for some time for three “whereabouts failures”. The AIU statement didn’t give a reason for the delay of the suspension. If upheld, Naser faces a two-year ban from track and field and could certainly be stripped of the world title. The 22-year-old faces missing next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, as well.

“The issue isn’t one that evokes any feeling of mine at this particular time, but I can say that it is always great news when it operates in our favor and certainly we would be elated and excited but for now, there isn’t level of guilt as far as drug abuse is concerned,” said Drumeco Archer, president of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA). “If the suspension is upheld, her winning the world title would come into question and that would open the door for Shaunae to walk right in and successfully defend her title at the Olympics next year. However, I don’t want to overreach. This is a violation of out-of-competition testing over a 12-month cycle and she was provisionally suspended. She has a right to appeal and we will just have to wait and see.”

President of the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Mike Sands, a Bahamian, opted not to comment on the matter, citing that it is an open investigation and he will just let the chips fall where they may.

Miller-Uibo, 26, who is set to defend her Olympic title in Tokyo, is understandably remaining quiet on the issue also. According to reports, her management team has advised her to be silent during the investigation and ensuing trial.

The Games of the 32nd Olympiad, initially set for this summer, have been postponed to July 23 to August 8, 2021.

The AIU oversees drug testing and disciplinary cases in track and field, and operates independently of World Athletics.

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.

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.

Naser’s provisional suspension is the latest in a series of cases against Bahrain’s elite squad of female runners originally from African countries. Olympic steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet was banned for four years in March for a positive test for EPO (erythropoietin) and Olympic marathon runner-up Eunice Kirwa picked up a four-year ban last year.

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