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Johnson: ‘Clean Athletes Should Demand Better From Their Federation’

SHAUNAE Miller-Uibo has been vocal about her displeasure with the decision in Salwa Eid Naser’s whereabouts case – which cleared the Bahraini sprinter of any wrongdoing and now other icons in the sport have joined the growing chorus of scepticism.

Former world and Olympic record holder in the 200m and 400m, Michael Johnson took to social media to echo many of the sentiments Miller-Ubo expressed in her statement last week regarding the case.

“Why was ‘19 World Champ Salwa Eid Naser cleared after missing 4 doping tests? World Athletics testing system lacks the structural integrity required to stand up in court if challenged,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“‘The tester went to the wrong door’. Clean athletes should demand better from their federation!”

According to a ruling by the Athletics Integrity Unit, Naser, the reigning 400m world champion, avoided a ban on a technicality after charges for missed tests and filing failures were dismissed by an independent tribunal.

Naser, who ran the third-fastest 400m in history when she pulled away from Miller-Uibo on the final curve to snatch the gold at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, was provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit in June. Johnson was also vocal after Naser’s initial suspension. She missed three tests in the 12 months before winning the world 400m title at the 2019 World Championships and another test in January.

“I believe the sport can legally increase the punishment for missed tests. Increase the punishment to 4 years, and you’ll see fewer missed tests,” said Johnson - the only male athlete in history to win both the 200m and 400m events at the same Olympics, a feat he accomplished at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

“Two (2 years) gives the presumption of innocence already. Maybe it’s not labelled as equal to positive, but the punishment should be.”

The President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Witold Banka, also expressed his thoughts on the decision and the possibility of his organisation taking action in the future.

“As it relates to Salwa Eid Naser and the World Athletics Disciplinary Tribunal decision on her case I am concerned,” said Banka.

“WADA will analyse it carefully and exercise its right to appeal if necessary.”

British sprinter Adam Gemili cited the case of Scottish hammer thrower Mark Dry as a reference to the inconsistency of the decision-making process of the sport’s governing bodies.

“There seems to be no consistency in how some athletes are treated compared to others. Look at what happened to Mark Dry for literally nothing. Being a world champion should not mean you get special treatment. This does not show track and field in a good light at all.”

Dry was charged with “attempted tampering with any part of doping control.” The rule includes “providing fraudulent information” in reference to a whereabouts issue.

Naser’s fourth violation, a test scheduled to be taken on April 12, 2019, at her apartment in Riffa, Bahrain was missed because a doping control official was unable to find her between 6-7am.

According to the AIU, the events of the morning “would have been comical were the consequences not so serious,” after the official was given the wrong address and was not given a phone number.

“Again I must reiterate, that my concern is with World Athletics and the AIU and the role they play. As senior administrators, their purpose is to protect and advance their athletes to the best of their abilities.

“With the recent turn of events, with their littered errors, in my view, opens the door to many questions. What took them so long to make this information public? How is it possible that this case lingered on until World Championships, which was in October 2019 and not once were the athletes informed, or the athlete in question provisionally suspended like others that were in the same position? There are case studies that can be provided to support that athletes were provisionally suspended until the case was heard before a tribunal. There were two cases in particular with both athletes missing their third test dated April 19 and April 26 and both were provisionally suspended in the month of August,” Miller-Uibo said in the aforementioned statement.

“We need to ensure that in athletics, we the athletes are not competing against any administrators whose only goal is for athletes to run faster, jump higher, jump further and throw further at any cost.” 

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