The two-year ban imposed on Michelle-Lee Ahye for “whereabouts failures” has been described as excessive by the Trinidad and Tobago track star’s American attorney, Howard L. Jacobs.
“I was surprised she was given two years,” Jacobs told the Express, yesterday. “I consider that sanction excessive. For whereabouts failures, the ban is between one and two years, and there are circumstances in this case which would have warranted a shorter sanction.”
An Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) disciplinary tribunal, chaired by William Norris QC and also including Conny Jorneklint and Francisco A. Larios, handed Ahye the two-year ban for missing three drug tests in a 12-month period: on June 23, 2018; February 23, 2019; and April 19, 2019.
In a published decision, Norris wrote: “Although, as we accept, this is the Athlete’s first ADRV (Anti-Doping Rule Violation), we regard this as a case in respect of which the standard two-year period of ineligibility is obviously appropriate.”
Norris went on to explain the tribunal’s rationale.
“The Claimant, notwithstanding lack of formal doping education, is an experienced Athlete who has been in the Registered Testing Pool since around 2013 and has been subject to doping control for more years than that. She, herself, acknowledged back in July 2018 that she realised the importance of compliance with those Rules.”
Norris also said that “the first missed test in June 2018 is something for which she must certainly be criticised, since it is apparent now that either she gave—or at least she allowed her agent to give—an explanation for the missed test, which was untrue.”
With respect to the third missed test, Norris said that Ahye “made no adequate effort to place herself in a position in which she would have been able to hear the DCO (Doping Control Officer) 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.”
The tribunal chair added: “We do not accept the argument advanced on behalf of the Athlete that we are in some way holding her to a higher standard than that which is required of the DCO.”
Jacobs, however, is considering an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). “No decision has been made yet, but I think we have a good basis to appeal. The deadline to file the appeal is February 6.”
T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis is also mindful of the CAS deadline. “We have three attorneys looking at it,” Lewis told the Express, “including Dave Williams. I think the overall opinion would be based on what is the view of the attorneys in terms of an appeal.”
In the absence of a National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) in T&T, the TTOC is the de facto NADO.
Ahye, the 2018 Commonwealth Games women’s 100 metres champion and a double sprint finalist at the 2016 Olympic Games, has been banned until April 18, 2021, and will miss the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. She will also be stripped of the 2019 Pan American Games 100m silver medal.