Michelle-Lee Ahye

TITLE DEFENCE: Michelle-Lee Ahye

Michelle-Lee Ahye’s two-year ban from athletics for an anti-doping violation has saddened sports doctor Anyl Gopeesingh, chairman of the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAATT) medical commission.

“Michelle has been sanctioned for missing three out-of-competition tests within a 12-month period, and not for having a banned substance or a prohibited method to gain unjust advantage. It is sad and disappointing, but we all have to respect the rules and regulations that govern us.

“Hopefully,” Dr Gopeesingh continued, “we can improve how we support our athletes through continuing education of anti-doping awareness and processes.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) reported yesterday that Ahye has been banned for two years for “whereabouts failures”. The Trinidad and Tobago track star missed three drug tests: on June 23, 2018; February 23, 2019; and April 19, 2019.

Ahye’s period of ineligibility started on the date of her last missed test and will end on April 18, 2021. Additionally, the AIU ruling declared that the 27-year-old sprinter’s results between April 19 and August 30 have been scrapped.

“… Disqualified with all resulting consequences including the forfeiture of any titles, awards, medals, points and prize and appearance money.”

The biggest loss for Ahye is the Pan American Games women’s 100 metres silver medal. On August 7, in Lima, Peru, the Carenage athlete finished second in the 100 final, behind Jamaica’s reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and ahead of Brazilian Vitoria Cristina Rosa. With Ahye disqualified, Rosa will be upgraded to silver, with bronze going to Ecuador’s Angela Tenorio.

T&T sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste moves from eighth to seventh in the Pan Am Games final. And Baptiste is now the 2019 national sprint champion, following Ahye’s disqualification. On July 27, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Ahye beat Baptiste into second spot in the National Championship 100m final.

NAAATT president Ephraim Serrette described the Ahye ban as “a very unfortunate development for one of our top female athletes”.

“She’s in the prime of her athletic career and is a hard-working individual. The rules as they are stated in respect to this matter are clear as it relates to the responsibility of the athlete as well as the consequences.

“As an association,” Serrette continued, “we remain committed to partnering with the Olympic Committee (TTOC) and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs to provide support and guidance more so when these sort of incidents occur.”

The AIU disciplinary tribunal was chaired by William Norris QC, and also included Conny Jorneklint and Francisco A Larios. The hearing was conducted by video link, with Ahye and her American lawyer Howard L Jacobs joining from the attorney’s California office.

In the AIU’s published decision, Norris referred to Ahye’s claim that because of a faulty doorbell she was unaware that a Doping Control Officer (DCO) had visited her Round Rock, Texas home on April 19, 2019. The chair said that the explanations provided by the 2018 Commonwealth Games 100m champion were rejected.

“She made no adequate effort to place herself in a position in which she would have been able to hear the DCO knocking on her door, ringing her door bell or calling her phone. In short, it demonstrates that she failed to take her obligations in relation to whereabouts sufficiently seriously.”

Ahye has the right to appeal the AIU ruling.

“As this proceeding involves an International Level Athlete,” Norris wrote, “the decision may be appealed exclusively to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport).”

Ahye is T&T’s most successful female Olympian. She earned the distinction at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Texas-based athlete finishing sixth in the 100m and 200m finals. Ahye, though, will not be part of the Team TTO line-up at the 2020 Olympics, the two-year ban forcing her out of the Tokyo Games.

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