A miscarriage, a missed drug test and altered records add to the trouble

Brianna McNeil, the 2016 Olympic champion in the 100m hurdles, who qualified for her second US Olympic team last month, never thought she would tell anyone other than her husband and her spiritual advisor about the January 2020 miscarriage. Will tell Certainly not World Athletics. , the global governing body of track and field. Certainly not the public.

During an interview after qualifying after finishing second in the Olympic Trials final, McNeil said in secret: “I just want to cry. You guys don’t understand how much I’ve gone through this year. I’m emotional.”

But in two interviews this week, McNeil offered his first public explanation, saying he was forced to reveal personal information to fight a doping ban and clear his name.

Last month, 29-year-old McNeil was suspended for five years for “tampering with the results management process” in relation to missing a doping test two days after a miscarriage. McNeil said she was in bed recovering from the procedure and did not hear antidoping officers arrive at the front door of her home in Northridge, Calif.

In Decision issued on FridayThe Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland upheld her five-year ban, meaning McNeil would not have a chance to defend her Olympic title and would miss the next two Summer Games. The court said it would give a detailed decision later. It also added another penalty to his ban: McNeil is now disqualified from all events from February 13, 2020 to August 14, 2020, and must forfeit all medals, prizes and money won during that time .

Gabby Cunningham, fourth in the 100 hurdles at the US Trials, will replace McNeil in Tokyo.

“Right now I feel excluded and stigmatized by the game, and that’s unfair to me,” McNeil said in a video call before rejecting his appeal. “I don’t believe this suspension at all, less than a five-year suspension, is just a technicality, an honest mistake during a very emotional time.”

Of the sport’s anti-doping officials, she said: “They say they are protecting clean athletes, but I don’t feel safe at all. I just feel like I am being judged for this very big decision I have made which has really affected my life. “

World Athletics did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After a five-year suspension, McNeil received a one-year ban four years earlier for missing three tests in a 12-month period. In that case, she said she twice forgot to update her whereabouts in the system that tracks athletes for random testing. On the third occasion, she said, she made a mistake in recording the time when it would be available.

McNeil said she was now coming forward to discuss abortion because she wanted people to know that the current suspension does not include anything like tampering with a urine sample. She said that she “is not doping and will never dope.

McNeil’s case sheds light on the question of how much antidoping officials do — or should go to — to catch athletes using banned drugs, while still protecting the rights of clean athletes.

The anti-doping rule book is getting thicker and more finicky, making it more complicated for clean athletes to follow every rule. Drug-testing technology has become more sensitive, which means that small traces of banned drugs – probably from consuming contaminated food – is visible in the results. Yet athletes and their handlers continue to offer strange excuses for missing or failing drug tests, making it difficult for antidoping officials to ease any part of their quest to keep the sport clean.

Russian High jumper Daniil Lysenko’s excuse As for the missing tests, for example, he was doing medical tests in a hospital when the drug examiner was looking for him. In the end, the doctors’ names on the paperwork submitted in his defense turned out to be fake and the hospital did not exist. Other matters, however, are complicated and antidoping officials must decide how strict they will be in the application of the rules if it is to catch athletes who knowingly cheat.

“No one wants paperwork or other mistakes to stop a clean athlete from achieving their dreams,” said Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, who said he was involved in the McNeil case is not and is not. See its detailed documentation.

In recent years, some anti-doping officials have shown that they will spot a piece of wrongdoing even if the violation does not prove that the athlete was doping. The fairness of this is debatable, especially when an athlete has done what is clearly a mistake.

McNeil has not been charged with doping. Several flaws in the documents she produced to prove her abortion are the reason for her ban.

On January 12, 2020, a drug tester approached McNeil but got no response. Nor did anyone answer his phone. Eighteen days later, the Athletics Integrity Unit, which investigates doping in track and field, asked McNeil to explain. He didn’t need to answer. She missed only one test in a 12-month period, and it takes three to trigger a doping violation.

McNeil said in interviews this week that she wanted to be transparent with investigators, so she explained that she had gone through “a surprising medical procedure” that left her on medication and bedridden. Protecting her privacy, she did not provide further details. But she requested a doctor’s note from the abortion clinic confirming an anonymous medical procedure.

When the note arrived about a month after the miscarriage, McNeil said, she mistakenly thought the clinic got the date of the procedure wrong. So he changed the date from January 10, 2020, to January 11, two days before his missed drug test.

The Athletics Integrity Unit noticed the change and asked for further documentation. McNeil submitted two more notes from the same doctor, changing the date on both of them. Investigators saw him and asked the clinic for his medical records. McNeil sent documents to prove she wasn’t lying about the procedure. Investigators then noticed that the date of the procedure was actually January 10, and that she had terminated the pregnancy.

“I tried to keep the abortion private, but they wanted me to know more,” McNeil said. “I couldn’t believe I was charged with violations because I only had 24 hours of dates. It’s not that the process didn’t happen.”

World Athletics argued in a disciplinary hearing that McNeil should have known better than to change the notes without confirming the date of the procedure with the clinic.

In its case against her, McNeil said, World Athletics said she didn’t believe she was so hurt by the abortion that she got the date of the procedure wrong. Eventually, the organization said, it continued to post on social media and compete in the weeks that followed.

McNeil said investigators had followed her to see a spiritual counselor rather than a psychiatrist, while she was suffering from depression after a miscarriage.

“I told them, ‘Oh, really? For me, growing up in the black community, that’s how we deal with everything—we go to church and we talk to our pastor or spiritual advisor,'” she said. “I feel like they haven’t been kind at all.”

McNeil said that as a Christian, she felt guilt about abortion, which she did so she could compete in the 2020 Games. She said she was even more crushed when the Games were postponed to 2021, as the delay meant she could have had a baby.

McNeil was so shaken and distraught by the miscarriage, she said, that it didn’t happen that changing the date would be a bad thing.

Howard Jacobs, one of his attorneys, was taken aback that the Athletics Integrity Unit brought a molestation case against McNeil when he could easily back down based on the sensitivity of the circumstances. He said the Track and Field Federation has been more aggressive than any other federation in pursuing such matters.

“The question is how far do you go and how much is appropriate,” Jacobs said. “This case left a really bad taste in my mouth because they didn’t have to go on with it. I’m having a really hard time with it.”

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