Olympian says an abortion caused her to miss doping test that got her suspended
Olympic track and field star Brianna McNeal said that a missed doping test in January 2020, which led to a five-year suspension from competition, occurred while she was recovering from an abortion.
McNeal, who won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in the 100-meter hurdles and last month qualified to compete in the Tokyo games, told The New York Times in an interview this week that an anti-doping official came to her home in Northridge, Calif., two days after her procedure.
The athlete said that she was lying in bed at the time and did not hear the official arrive at the front door, according to the Times.
On Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland upheld a five-year ban that had been levied against McNeal last month for “tampering within the results management process” in connection with the missed test.
As part of the punishment, the 29-year-old will also have “all competitive results” between Feb. 13, 2020, and Aug. 14, 2020, “disqualified,” meaning that she will have to give up any “medals, titles, points, prize money and prizes” earned during that time period.
While McNeal told the Times that she initially hoped to keep the abortion private, she has now decided to open up in order to fight the punishment.
“Right now I feel excommunicated from the sport itself and stigmatized, and to me it is unfair,” she said in an interview before her appeal was denied.
“I just don’t believe that this warranted a suspension at all, much less a five-year suspension, for just a technicality, an honest mistake during a very emotional time,” she added.
The Olympian specifically condemned anti-doping authorities, explaining, “They say that they are protecting athletes that are clean, but I don’t feel protected at all.”
“I just feel like I’m being judged for this very big decision I made that really affected my life,” she said.
McNeal, who told the Times that she is “not doping and will never dope,” was issued a yearlong ban four years ago for missing three tests within a 12-month period.
World Athletics, the global governing body for track and field, in its most recent suspension specifically cited that McNeal had changed the date on her doctor’s note informing officials of a medical procedure, with the athlete telling the Times that she mistakenly thought the abortion clinic put the incorrect date.
World Athletics declined to comment when contacted by The Hill, explaining that the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) handles all anti-doping matters for the organization.
The AIU tweeted Friday that it is planning on publishing soon a detailed explanation of the decision to uphold McNeal’s suspension.
McNeal’s suspension comes as a wave of criticism has erupted following the suspension of U.S. star sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson over a positive marijuana test.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Friday said that Richardson, who was set to represent the country in the 100-meter dash in the Tokyo Olympics, accepted a one-month suspension beginning June 28.
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