April 20, 2017
2016 Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna Rollins of the United States has been suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for a full year because she could not be located to take three drug tests in 2016. Olympic-level athletes must make themselves available for drug testing under the whereabouts system and Rollins missed three tests in 2016, one on April 27th, one on September 13th, and another two weeks later on September 27th. She was charged with a doping violation as a result for the three missed tests. She appealed the ruling, but a three-member American Arbitration Association panel upheld the suspension although they did reduce it from two years to one — the minimum allowed for three missed tests.
She will have to miss the entire 2017 track and field season.
The arbitrators admitted it was a difficult case for them as they wrote, “This is a difficult case because it involves the imposition of a serious penalty on a brilliant athlete who is not charged or suspected of using banned substances of any kind. Respondent (Brianna Rollins) is justly admired.”
At the arbitration hearing, Rollins did not contest the missed tests on September 13th and September 27th. She was out of town on both days being honored for being an Olympic champion. The ruling noted she was, “travelling to have a parade in her honor in her home town in Florida and to celebrate ‘Brianna Rollins Day,’ and when she went to visit the White House to be feted by the President.”
The missed test that Rollins disputed was the one on April 27th. In the whereabouts system, athletes must not only account for where they will be each day, but they must specify one hour a day when they will be at a specific location. Rollins said she would be at her home from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., but she also noted in the system she would be at the Drake Relays that day. The tester showed up at her home at 6:56 a.m and when contacted by phone at 7:08 a.m., Rollins said she was at the airport. The tester then drove to the airport to test Rollins. The tester contacted Rollins again and Rollins texted back saying she was getting off the shuttle and did not have to go to the bathroom. The tester then said, “I called her and left a message, because I couldn’t find her. She called back and stated that she had already gone through security.”
At the hearing, Rollins said this missed test should not count as a missed test, but rather as a filing error. Athletes can get penalized for not filing where they are going to be. Rollins said when she put into the system she would be at Drake Relays she did not know that would still keep the one-hour window of her being at her house in the system. The panel ruled it should count as missed test.
It should be noted that Rollins was told in writing at the end of April that the incident would count as her first missed test. At the end of April, she was given the opportunity to offer an explanation as in writing she was told:
“You have previously been advised that a failure to be available for testing during your designated 60-minute time slot at your specified location could constitute committing a Missed Test. . . . Unless you provide a valid explanation for the above apparent Missed Test, a Missed Test will be recorded against you. . .. You have the opportunity to provide a written explanation for your apparent absence for testing, within the next 14 days, i.e. by no later than 12th May 2016.”
Rollins did not offer an explanation as she now says she was focused on training.
The arbitrators did give Rollins the minimum suspension considering all the circumstances. The length of the suspension can be reduced “depending on the Athlete’s degree of fault.”
The panel also said this about Rollins, “However, this is a first offense, she had been frequently tested for years, and she has a perfect drug-free record, both in and out-of-competition. Her clean tests included an out-of-competition test on May 3, 2016 (six days after Incident 1) and an out-of-competition test on October 14, 2016 (31 and 17 days, respectively, after Incidents 2 and 3). As agreed by Claimant she shows no evidence of avoiding testing, masking drug use, or using drugs.”
Nonetheless, she is suspended for a full year and will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship opportunities as the Olympic champion.
Rollins released a statement accepting responsibility, “It is with my deepest regrets that I will have to miss the 2017 outdoor season. I accept full responsibility for the mistakes that have led to my suspension, and am disappointed that I will have to miss this coming outdoor season, as a result of my confusion over how the whereabouts program worked. I have always been and continue to be a supporter of USADA and their fight to keep our sport clean, and I will continue to do my part to prove that success can be achieved without taking any shortcuts. This is a very unpleasant experience, but I am able to see where errors were made. Understanding this will prevent any similar issues in the future, I will accept the sanction and work to prepare myself for my return in 2018.”
Statement from Brianna Rollins on her recently-announced whereabouts violation: pic.twitter.com/3oU977GRws
— Ryan Madden (@Ry_Madden) April 20, 2017
Analysis: What a Shame & Thumbs Up to Brianna Rollins for Accepting Responsibility
The blame for this falls on Brianna Rollins and we applaud her for accepting full responsibility. Once you have two missed tests, you need to go 100% overboard to ensure you don’t have a third one.
The missed tests were preventable. The panel notes that neither her agency, Stellar Athletics, nor USATF did anything to assist Rollins after she had two missed tests to ensure she didn’t miss a third. “USATF, the national governing body (‘NGB’) of which Respondent is a member, received a copy of each of the agencies’ letters to Respondent charging her with first and second violations. It did nothing to inquire with its athlete as to the circumstances and to assure future compliance. The NGB left her on her own. Respondent’s own sports agency did not involve itself in her compliance activities or problems. Only after the third Incident, when it was too late, did they help her fashion her response.” (One of her agents, Ramon Clay, testified he did not know of her missed tests until after #3. It was unclear from the ruling if the agency was notified but the report says USATF was notified of the missed tests). You think people with a vested interest in her not getting sanctioned would remind her of the seriousness of two missed tests.
The ruling may seem harsh for someone who had two missed tests that occured in part while being honored as Olympic champion, but for drug testing to be effective athletes have to be available to be tested every day. Brianna Rollins screwed up three times and now she’ll really pay the price. We bet athletes are less likely to miss tests in the future which is a good thing.
As for the first test, the drug tester went to the airport to test Rollins. If Rollins had made herself available for a test, she wouldn’t have this problem. Saying you don’t have to go the bathroom is not a valid reason to miss a test in our book.
Talk about the decision on our fan forum / messageboard. MB:Breaking: Olympic 100h Champ Brianna Rollins gets 12-month ban for 3 whereabouts violations.