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Joanna Evans’ suspension increased to four years

OLYMPIC swimmer Joanna Evans in the pool.

OLYMPIC swimmer Joanna Evans in the pool.

By TENAJH SWEETING

Tribune Sports Reporter

tsweeting@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMIAN two-time Olympian Joanna Evans took to social media on Monday to voice her grievances with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after her initial two-year doping ban from the sport was doubled to four years following her attempt to appeal the decision through the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

Evans was sidelined from the sport beginning from February 14, 2022 after she tested positive for the banned substance Clostebol, which she said she came into contact with in September 2021 while competing at an International Swimming League (ISL) event in Naples, Italy.

The Grand Bahama native was expected to be eligible for competition again back in February but the latest verdict handed down has left her frustrated.

“I have always been an avid supporter of anti-doping campaigns. At the beginning of my nightmare, I believed in the system but as time went on it became increasingly frustrating and unfair. The system failed me and has led me to conclude that honesty was not my best policy when dealing with these governing bodies. The decision to ban me for 4 years, rendered March 2024, after my hearing with CAS in October 2023 is unconscionable and, in my opinion, alarmingly vicious,” she posted on Instagram.

The doping debacle began when the multiple time national record holder was given a tube of Trofodermin in 2021 at a local pharmacy while in Naples, Italy to treat a cut received from what was described as a “jagged, rusty balcony at the hotel” by Evans in a statement last year.

She claimed that she was unaware that the cream contained the banned substance Clostebol which she used again on October 30, 2021 in Austin, Texas after receiving a gash on her knee due to a fall on a concrete pavement.

Although Evans said she didn’t intentionally use the banned substance to improve her performance, the International Testing Agency (ITA) offered her a three-year ban instead of the “warranted” four-year ban if she accepted within three weeks of being notified in June 2022.

Evans declined and decided to make an appeal which she subsequently lost. She expressed on Instagram the unfortunate treatment endured during the appeal process.

“My swimming career has been destroyed by WADA’s legal team who disregarded the truth, misrepresented the facts, twisted my words to suit its agenda, showed hostility and intimidation toward my witness and conjured up highly unlikely scenarios to pursue a ‘win’ and not the truth. They made it impossible for me to be viewed in a realistic light and dehumanized me with cruel accusations, character annihilation and disrespect. This line of attack is just morally wrong in these circumstances where ‘ethics’ is proclaimed to be of paramount importance,” she continued.

The Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) stood in support of Evans during the trying time and the 26-year-old said she fought to defend the integrity and reputation of herself as well as Bahamas Aquatics.

“I did everything within my power to prove that my use of a banned substance was accidental and unintentional. Anyone willing to research my history and professional background will see that I came from very humble beginnings with limited financial resources and I have persevered unceasingly to stand on my personal and competitive reputation. I fought for the truth and to defend my integrity and the reputation of Bahamas Aquatics. I was stunned at the cruel irony with which I was rewarded for my full transparency and my naive honesty,” she posted.

In the midst of what she classified as a “nightmare”, the Bahamian swimmer claimed that she was ordered to pay a contribution towards WADA’s expenses incurred “in connection with the arbitration proceedings”.

The 26-year-old is a decorated performer holding the national record for the 200, 400 and 800m freestyle events. Additionally, she has made two appearances at the Olympic Games starting with her Olympic debut in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro followed by her stint at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

She was hoping to make her third Olympic appearance but the devastating decision has left her hurt to say the least.

“Nothing short of a reversal of my sanction can begin to rectify the direct and collateral damage that this unfair treatment has done. It is extremely hurtful and callous to delay the decision making and then subsequently increase the ban from 2 to 4 years after I had painstakingly adhered to all the stipulations of the original ban and trained alone for almost two years to be in the best shape possible to fulfill my dream of going to Paris 2024. I feel victimized by the system I trusted. It was on WADAs insistence that my ban was increased to 4 years. What point is WADA proving by destroying one honest athlete from a small country while overlooking 23 positive tests from Olympic giant China?” she ended.

Last month it was reported by the Herald Sun that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for the doping substance Trimetazidine before the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games but the test results were ruled out due to them being contaminated and the athletes were allowed to compete.

WADA and the World Aquatics were notified of the positive tests but both governing bodies concluded that the test results were positive due to contamination and they did not hand out any suspensions despite concerns raised by the ITA and US Anti-Doping Agency.

With the ban now doubled, it is unclear when or if Evans will return back to competition.

Attempts to reach the former Olympian for further comments were unsuccessful.

Comments

DaGoobs 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Unfortunately for her, she is apparentky banned from competing for 4 years effective from 14 February 2022. This is what can happen following an appeal of an anti-doping rule violation, the penalty can go all the way up to the 4 year maximum. You see this happen sometimes in the Bahamas Court of Appeal where convicted criminals appeal their sentence and the appeal court decides to impose a harsher sentence than the trial judge. Under Swiss law, she can appeal the CAS decision to the Swiss courts but if she did she is unlikely to get any reduction there. This is the catch when you compete at the highest levels in sports. The WADA Code, the World Aquatics rules and even the Bahamas law impose these types of penalties on all manner of athletes now. The rules/law make the athlete responsible for what he or she invests. It would appear that the Tribunal at first instance might have been satisfied that she unknowingly and unwittingly committed an ADRV and gave her a 2 year suspension but the likelihood is that the CAS tribunal was not so forgiving and presumably felt that it was ingested intentionally or carelessly thus the reason for the 4 year suspension. She apparently has already served 2 of the 4 years, the question is where will she be in 2026 at age 28 with another 2 years to go to the next Olympics?

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