Olympic 100 meter hurdles champion Brianna Rollins has been banned for a year by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after missing three out-of-competition drugs tests.
The 25-year-old American, who also won the gold medal at the 2013 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships, was not available for three tests between April and September last year.
“Outside of these whereabouts failures, Rollins completed eight out-of-competition tests over the course of 2016,” USADA said in a statement.
“However, under the rules of international Olympic sport, including the IAAF Anti-Doping Policy, the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies, and the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing (the USADA Protocol), all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code, the combination of three whereabouts failures within a 12-month period constitutes a rule violation.”
Rollins received a whereabouts failure from the IAAF for being unavailable for testing on April 27 and another from USADA on September 13.
She then missed a third out-of-competition test on September 27 due to be conducted by the IAAF.
Two of the whereabouts failures occurred after Rollins won her Olympic gold medal, which is not in danger as a result of the decision to ban her for one-year.
The panel acknowledged that the failures “were when she was travelling to have a parade in her honor in her home town in Florida and to celebrate ‘Brianna Rollins Day,’ and when she went to visit the White House “to be feted by the President.”
Rollins did contest the first missed test window, which occurred when a USADA doping control officer visited her home at a time Rollins had indicated she would be there, in order to carry out a test at the request of the IAAF.
Rollins claimed she thought the system would automatically update her data to indicate she would be away from home after she entered notice that she would be competing in the Drake Relays in Iowa during that period.
Lorena Martinez, the doping control officer, spoke to Rollins on the telephone when she could not find her at home and followed her to the airport in an effort to collect a sample.
Rollins initially indicated she was getting off an airport shuttle before claiming she had already gone through security.
Rollins had challenged the decision but, following a live hearing before independent arbitrators, she was banned for a year.
A three-person arbitration panel chaired by Barry A. Sanders, the former executive counsel of Latham & Watkins, that found Rollins guilty claimed the case was “difficult…because it involves the imposition of a serious penalty on a brilliant athlete who is not charged or suspected of using banned substances of any kind.
“[Rollins] is justly admired.”
Rollins’ suspension will be backdated until December 19, the date she was informed of her rule violation, and she will miss the whole of the 2017 season, including the IAAF World Championships in London.
Rollins had won at Rio 2016 leading a US clean sweep, making it the first time in history that one country gained all medals in this discipline at the Olympic and the first occasion American women achieved such a performance in any Olympic event.
“I accept full responsibility for my mistakes that have led to my suspension and I am disappointed I will have to miss the coming outdoor season, as a result of my confusion over how the whereabouts program worked,” said Rollins in a statement issued by her lawyer Howard Jacobs.
“I have always been and continue to be a supporter of USADA and their fight to keep our sport clean.
“I will continue to do my part to prove to continue to do my part to prove that success can be achieved without taking any shortcuts.
“This is a very unpleasant experience , but I am able to see where errors were made.
“Understanding this will prevent any similar issues in the future.
“I will accept the sanction and work to prepare myself for my return in 2018.”
Rollins is the highest profile athlete to be banned for missing three out-of-competition drugs tests since Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu in 2006.
She was also banned for a year but returned in 2007 to win the 400m at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka only 24 days after her suspension ended.
A year later Ohuruogu added the Olympic title.
Another Briton, Sir Mo Farah, faced the threat of a suspension when he missed two out-of-competition tests in a year before London 2012, where he won gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
He claimed he missed one of the tests when he failed to hear the doorbell being rung seven times in the space of an hour at his house in London.
“I would also like to urge my fellow track athletes to be aware of the importance in filling correct whereabouts notifications, and to fully understand the implication of what could happen if errors are made,” said Rollins.
To read the full verdict of the arbitrators click here.
By Duncan Mackay
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.