By Jonathan Gault
May 1, 2020
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced the provisional suspension of three high-profile athletes — US sprinters Gabby Thomas and Deajah Stevens and Kenyan distance runner Alex Korio Oloitiptip — for whereabouts failures on Friday. Each faces a maximum ban of two years if convicted.
Thomas, 23, and Stevens, 24, were recent collegiate stars at Harvard University and the University of Oregon, respectively. Thomas set the indoor collegiate 200m record in winning the 2018 NCAA title in 22.38 and owns a personal best of 22.19 outdoors. Stevens owns PBs of 11.00 in the 100 and 22.09 in the 200. She was 7th in the 2016 Olympic 200m final and, after winning the 2017 US title at the same distance, finished 5th in the 2017 World Championship final. Oloitiptip has run 58:51 for the half marathon and finished 11th in the 10,000 at last year’s World Championships in Doha.
There are two types of whereabouts failures: missed tests (when a doping control officer attempts to test an athlete during their daily one-hour window and the athlete is not available) and filing failures (in which an athlete’s whereabouts information is inaccurate or incomplete). Three whereabouts failures in a 12-month span triggers a suspension.
According to Thomas’ agent Paul Doyle, all three of her whereabouts failures were missed tests during 2019: the first on April 22, the second on August 21, and the third on September 19. While Doyle admitted the first missed test was “undeniable,” he said “on her second missed test, there’s some discrepancy that she was ‘in the vicinity,’ which is what the rules state — they have to be in the vicinity. They of course don’t describe ‘vicinity’ too clearly.”
But two missed tests means nothing – the key is the third and Thomas is appealing the decision because she believes she bears no fault for the third missed test. She claims she was exactly where she said she would be on her whereabouts form: New Haven, Conn.
“She was there,” Doyle said of the third missed test. “And there were 10 people in the house that she was at and not one of them heard any knocking on the door [from a doping control officer].”
“I am confident that at least one of these missed tests is not valid and that I will be completely cleared,” Thomas wrote in a statement to LetsRun.com. “Phone tracking data and multiple witnesses will conclusively show that I was at the exact location I established in my whereabouts and that the doping control officer simply failed to locate me and failed to follow proper protocol. I am all for clean sport and I respect the rules of the anti-doping organizations, but those rules are intended to be followed by both sides. The athletes are held to an incredibly high standard and the doping control organizations are supposed to be held to similarly high standards. I look forward to having this behind me so that I can focus on preparing for the next phase of my career.”
As of now, no date has been set for Thomas’ AIU appeal hearing.
LetsRun.com reached out to Stevens’ agent Wes Felix but did not immediately hear back prior to publication.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Oloitiptip’s agent is Federico Rosa; Rosa emailed LetsRun.com to say he stopped representing Oloitiptip in November 2019.
Talk about these doping suspensions on the world famous LetsRun.com fan forum/messageboard. MB: Should we just give up and find a new sport? Gabby Thomas – formerly of Harvard – receives doping ban for missing 3 tests