Michelle-Lee Ahye

OLYMPIC HOPEFUL: Michelle-Lee Ahye

There is still hope that Michelle-Lee Ahye will be on show for Trinidad and Tobago at the July 24-August 9 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Last month, Ahye was handed a two-year suspension for “whereabouts failures” after missing three out-of-competition drug tests within a 12-month period: on June 23, 2018; February 23, 2019: and April 19, 2019. The T&T sprint star’s ban, however, has been challenged at the Count of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Attorney-at-Law and T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) trustee Dave Williams told the Express, yesterday, that the TTOC has filed an appeal with CAS. In the absence of a National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) in T&T, the TTOC is the de facto NADO.

“Michelle-Lee could have appealed through her attorney, or the TTOC can appeal on the athlete’s behalf,” Williams explained. “We can do so under IAAF (World Athletics) anti-doping rules. We filed last week, so we have stayed within the time-frame. We were working with a February 13 deadline.”

Ahye was represented by American attorney Howard L. Jacobs when she appeared before the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) disciplinary tribunal, via video link, last December. In an Express interview, last week, Jacobs said that Ahye has the basis for an appeal. However, he declined comment on the reasons for his non-involvement.

Williams, though, is very much involved with the CAS appeal, and is optimistic about Ahye’s chances of competing at the Tokyo Olympics.

Her two-year ban is scheduled to end on April 18, 2021, more than eight months after the conclusion of the Tokyo Games.

“Michelle-Lee is one of our best hopes for Tokyo in terms of medalling. She has never failed a drug test, and this is her first anti-doping violation. Yes, the rules are strict, but ought to be applied fairly. However, it may not act in my client’s best interest to say anything further on the grounds and nature of the appeal.

“We’ll give it our best shot,” Williams continued, “but it’s up to CAS. The TTOC seeks the interest of our athletes. The TTOC, though, has no money, so I’m doing this pro bono. We have filed our statement of appeal. We have up to 15 days after February 13 to file an appeal brief. CAS would then determine if there is a need for oral evidence. We are hoping the decision comes in by mid-March.”

If Ahye’s ban is reduced to one year, she will become available for selection on the T&T team for the Tokyo Olympics. “We are challenging the suspension in the hope of a reduction,” said Williams. “We are focusing on precedent based on similar situations. But I don’t want to refer to any particular case just yet.”

Last year, American sprinter Christian Coleman escaped a ban on a technicality after also missing three drug tests within a 12-month period. He went on to strike gold in the men’s 100 metres dash at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar. And another American, 2016 Olympic women’s 100m hurdles champion Brianna Rollins-McNeal completed a one-year “whereabouts failures” ban in December, 2017.

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