World 400 meters champion Salwa Eid Naser was provisionally suspended for registering four “whereabouts failures,” the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) said on Sunday.
The Bahrain athlete, who won gold at the World Championships in Doha last year, pleaded her innocence despite being suspended by the AIU on Friday for failing to make herself available for anti-doping tests.
Naser said in an Instagram Live video on Friday that she was not a cheat and that missing three drugs tests before the world championships “is normal” and “can happen to anybody,” according to an account of her broadcast published by NBC.
The Athletics Integrity Unit confirmed that Naser was already under scrutiny for three “whereabouts failures” prior to her world championship win in Doha in October.
That means that Naser could be stripped of her gold medal if she’s found guilty. She also faces missing next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
The Nigeria-born sprinter, who represents Bahrain, surged past Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo to win in 48.14 seconds, the fastest time since 1985.
AIU records show she wasn’t charged and provisionally suspended until this week. The AIU statement didn’t explain the reason for the delay.
Athletes are required to provide regular updates on their whereabouts to make it possible for anti-doping authorities to carry out surprise testing outside of competition. A violation means an athlete either did not fill out forms telling authorities where he or she could be found, or that athletes weren’t where they said they would be when testers arrived.
Three violations within 12 months can lead to a suspension if the athletes can’t justify why they weren’t available for testing.