Olympic hurdler Brianna McNeal loses appeal of five-year ban

The 29-year-old track and field athlete will be forced to miss the next two Olympic Games, putting her career in jeopardy

U.S. Olympic athlete Brianna McNeal lost her appeal of a multi-year suspension by an international sports regulator, putting the gold medal-winning hurdler out of the Tokyo Olympics and her career in jeopardy.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday said it was leaving McNeal’s five-year ban from competition in place, stemming from charges of an anti-doping rule violation.

McNeal was charged with “tampering within the results management process, her second violation of the @WorldAthletics Anti-Doping Rules,” the World Athletics’ anti-doping arm Athletics Integrity Unit said in a June tweet.

Brianna McNeal in the Women 100-Meter Hurdles on day three of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 20, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In April, the AIU accused McNeal, winner of the 2016 100-meter hurdles, of falsifying doctor’s notes after missing a doping test in January 2020, as reported by USA Today. McNeal had an abortion and put down the incorrect date of her procedure. The AIU alleged that McNeal intentionally put the wrong date to justify missing a testing date.

According to a report from the AIU, McNeal, 29, had the abortion on Jan. 10 of that year, but dated the procedure as Jan. 11. The doping test was scheduled for Jan. 12.

McNeal stated that she was distressed after the procedure and that putting the wrong date was an accident. She stated she had the abortion in order to compete for a spot in the Tokyo Olympic Games. She later qualified during the June trials. However, the five-year suspension was levied and she will be ineligible from competing in both the forthcoming event in Tokyo as well as the Olympics scheduled for 2024 in Paris.

Angered by the outcome, McNeal explained her experience and outrage in a lengthy social media messaged posted Saturday. She contended that being off by one day in the doctor’s notes shouldn’t be grounds for such a penalty.

“Should my career pretty much be over because I had the date of my abortion off by 24 hours,” McNeal wrote. “The event did happen: it was 100% the reason why I missed the test. I was physically and emotionally drained that entire weekend.” She stated that the Doping Control Officer came to her home at 6:00 a.m. and that World Athletics was less concerned about her well-being than getting the paperwork correct.

“As I stated instead of being met with some empathy and understanding I was being overly judged and criticized clerical error because they couldn’t possibly fathom being in my shoes,” McNeal continued.

McNeal was suspended once before in 2017 for similar reasons. She was suspended for one year for not being available for drug testing, leading to whereabouts violations. McNeal wrote she is a “clean athlete” who has never tested positive for banned substances after “no less than 70” drug tests.

McNeal wrote that during the April and July hearings over her suspension, the AIU brought in “clinical psychiatrists to undermine my mental heath” while attempting to “discredit” the doctor she and her husband used “to testify about abortion stigma.”

In addition, McNeal questioned if she would be receiving such treatment and penalties if she weren’t Black.

“I don’t like to take it here but I can’t help but wonder if I was a white woman, or a European, would I have been met with some sort of consideration?” she pondered.

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