A female American runner has lost her chance to defend her Olympic gold because she fudged her medical records concerning an abortion.
On Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which meets in Switzerland, upheld a five-year suspension for track and field competitor Brianna McNeal, who won the 100-meter hurdles in the 2016 Olympics. McNeal, who had been allowed to compete while her appeal was pending, had made the U.S. team for the Tokyo Games. She will now be replaced.
McNeal claimed she was being unfairly treated for issues that she said were all complications from the abortion she had in January 2020, and insisted she never used banned substances, according to The New York Times.
“Right now I feel excommunicated from the sport itself and stigmatized, and to me it is unfair,” she told The Times.
“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 also threw a jab at World Athletics, the governing body of international track and field competitions.
“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.
The five-year suspension is not McNeal’s first rodeo. Four years ago, she was slapped with a one-year suspension for missing three tests within a one-year period, according to The Times. The athlete said her tests were missed due to forgetting to update her location and set correct times when she would be available.
Her most recent suspension was handed out for “tampering within the results management process” — the runner has not been accused of doping. The initial ruling came out in June, but McNeal appealed. She did not mention her abortion publicly until this week.
McNeal said she did not answer the door when a drug tester called on her on Jan. 12, 2020, because she was in bed recovering from her abortion. In a follow-up interview, she said she told investigators she had a “surprise medical procedure” that forced her to stay in bed.
When she was asked for confirmation from her medical provider, McNeal admitted that she changed the dates on the forms provided to her by the clinic, which did not detail the nature of her procedure. The athlete said she thought the procedure occurred one day later than the clinic had documented.
But the change was noticed, and more information was requested. McNeal kept changing the dates on the forms sent to her. Eventually, the truth came out.
“I tried to keep the abortion private, but they just kept tugging and tugging at me, wanting more information,” McNeal said. “I couldn’t believe that I was charged with a violation because I had the dates mixed up by just 24 hours. It’s not like the procedure didn’t happen.”
World Athletics said McNeal should have known not to alter her medical records.
The world body also argued that McNeal’s social media posts and continued competition cast doubt on her claim that she was so traumatized by the abortion, she made a mistake in the paperwork.
In its reporting on her suspension, NBC Sports noted that an athlete usually faces a harsher penalty for a second rules violation.
McNeal brought race and gender into the argument in a post on Instagram.
She wrote that she sat through two hearings and “and listened to white European men tell me how my experience doesn’t match with their perspective.”
“How could these men tell me what type of experience I should have had; how can these men who would never in a million years be in my shoes tell me anything I should be going through?”
She said she deserved sympathy over everything she went through.
“Should my career pretty much be over because I had the date of my abortion wrong by 24 hours?” she wrote. “The event did happen: it was 100% the reason why I missed the test. I was physically and emotionally drained that entire weekend.”
McNeal is not the first U.S. Olympic star to be punished for breaking anti-doping rules. Also on Friday, 100-meter sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson lost her chance to compete in the 100-meter dash after using marijuana before her drug test last month.
Story cited here.