American world and Olympic hurdles champion Brianna McNeal has been provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for tampering with the doping control process. McNeal, 29, is the reigning Olympic gold medallist in the 100mH, and she won at the 2013 world championships in the same event in Moscow. This is her second run-in with doping officials since 2016, as she was previously suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span following her win at the Rio Games. The AIU is currently reviewing her case, although the organization has not released any more details following the suspension.
The AIU has charged Brianna McNeal (USA) for tampering within the results management process, a violation of the @WorldAthletics Anti-Doping Rules.
The hurdler has been provisionally suspended.
👁️ ⬇️https://t.co/opInfkVlnV#AIUNews pic.twitter.com/qrY2G8NwWA
— Athletics Integrity Unit (@aiu_athletics) January 14, 2021
As stated on the AIU website, three missed drug tests (known as “whereabouts failures” in the world of anti-doping) in a 12-month span constitutes an anti-doping rule violation, “for which the applicable sanction is two years’ ineligibility subject to a reduction to a minimum of one year depending on your degree of fault.” McNeal missed one test in April 2016, just a few months before the Olympics, and two following the Games in September.
She accepted full responsibility for the violation, although she said her missed tests were due to confusion with the drug testing whereabouts program. (Athletes must provide whereabouts details throughout the year and keep anti-doping officials updated regarding any changes that arise). McNeal’s ban could have been two years, but it was reduced to one by an arbitration panel, so she only missed the 2017 season.
Due to her previous violation, McNeal’s current suspension could mean the end of her professional career. As stated in the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules, “an anti-doping rule violation that is the second anti-doping offence” can, in some cases, lead to “twice the period of ineligibility” that would be applied to a first offence. In some tampering cases, athletes have been banned for four years, meaning McNeal could potentially face an eight-year ban. If the AIU charges her, she will be ineligible to compete until she is 37 years old, well past the prime of a sprinter’s career.