Five days before her women’s 100m hurdles world title and world record clock a year; and exactly one month to the 2023 World Athletics Championships, which holds from August 19 to 27 in Budapest, Hungary, hurdler Tobi Amusan, has been handed a ban from the Athletics Integrity Unit for missing three out of competition tests in 12 months.
The women’s 100m hurdles world record holder was handed the ban on Wednesday, hours after she also revealed the charge and stated her cleanliness.
“The AIU confirms that it has today (Wednesday) charged and provisionally suspended Tobi Amusan (NGR) for three Whereabouts Failures,” AIU stated in a statement on Wednesday.
“The charge will be heard by the Disciplinary Tribunal and determined before the World Athletics Championships.”
Before AIU’s announcement, the 26-year-old vowed to fight the charge.
“I intend to fight this charge and will have my case decided by a tribunal of three arbitrators before the start of next month’s World Championships,” Amusan said.
“I am a clean athlete, and I am regularly; (maybe more than the usual) tested by the AIU – I was tested within days of my third ‘missed test.’ I have faith that this will be resolved in my favour and that I will be competing at the World Championships in August.”
Although the case will be heard before the World Championships, her chances of defending her title is hanging in the balance. She also stands the risk of missing the Olympics in 2024, if she’s not able to come up with a strong defence during the hearing.
Amusan’s charge of whereabouts failure is under article 2.4 of the AIU in which the consequences is a two-year ban if found guilty.
“Under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules, any combination of three whereabouts failures (Filing Failure and/or Missed Test) within a period of 12 months constitute an anti-doping rule violation, for which the applicable sanction is two years’ ineligibility subject to a reduction to a minimum of one year depending on your degree of fault,” the AIU stated in the article.
Nigeria’s 4x400m gold medallist at the 2000 Olympics, Enefiok Udo-Obong, who is now the Technical Director, Lagos State Athletics Association, explained the drug testing procedure.
“There is a system called ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration & Management System]), which every top athlete signs on to. In there, you have to fill in your whereabout forms — that’s everywhere you will be at a particular time. If there is a change of movement, you log in and update your whereabouts.
“With information from ADAMS, the ITO (International Testing Organisation) can send its agent to test you at any time. All they do is go to where you say you will be.
“If you are not there, it’s a failed test and they notify you. If you are absent three times in a year, it’s a strike, which is an anti-doping violation.”
On their website, the AIU also listed failing to submit whereabouts, failing to update whereabout after a change, inaccurate or incomplete whereabouts, failure to give instructions to security to allow doping control officers in and not available for testing at the location as the five circumstances that could mean missing tests.
It’s been months of building up for her title defence, and journalist, Osasu Obayiuwana, slammed her team for not paying attention to the details of her off-track activities.
“What exactly is the function of the management team of Tobi Amusan? How can she miss not one, not two, but three tests?
“She knows you don’t mess around with the AIU on such matters. Do they not know it? They have dropped the ball, big time! Management is more than getting a cut of her sponsorship earnings.
“Where was the protection, for the athlete, to ensure she did not make a major career faux-pas like this? This is just gut-wrenching. This girl is the sporting pride of Nigeria. And look at the situation now,” Obayiuwana lamented.
Despite winning her last three races in style and setting a meet record in one of them, it’s been merry go round for the talented world champion.
Earlier this month, Amusan was stripped of her 4x100m 2022 Commonwealth gold medal after one of the members of the quartet, Grace Nwokocha, was found guilty of doping.
Nwokocha’s case follows Divine Oduduru and Blessing Okagbare, who were banned by the AIU for a conspired doping case.
Sydney 2000 4x400m gold medallist Udo-Obong said Amusan’s chances of being left off the hook are slim, judging by previous cases, but added that with a good case, she could be cleared.
“Before the AIU comes out with a charge, they have partly made up their mind. So, she will need a strong and compelling case. We have had a case of Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain, who got two years ban over similar issue and America’s Christian Coleman, who also missed the 2020 Olympics due to suspension,” Udo-Obong told our correspondent.
“I hope she will be ready psychologically for the World Championships if she is cleared before the event. We have barely recovered from the recent cases.”
However, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, ex-athletes and Nigerians are optimistic that Amusan will be cleared to race for the country at next month’s World Athletics Championships.
President of the AFN, Tonobok Okowa, underlined Amusan as one of the country’s medal prospects in Budapest and expressed confidence that the hurdler will scale through.
“We pray that she will drive her points home and her reason for missing the tests at the time they were slated for. Not that she didn’t do the tests, but it was not at the time she was supposed to do them. She completed her tests and didn’t test positive,” Okowa told our correspondent.
“We hope she will be part of our team for the World Championships because all things being equal, we know she will win a medal for us.”
Also, former African 200m and 400m champion, Falilat Ogunkoya, also expressed optimism about Amusan’s chances of coming out clean.
“If she has done the tests, it’s something that they will meet and discuss and I know she will get out of it,” Ogunkoya said.
Amusan’s earlier post about the charge also attracted positive reactions from fans.
“Time to be strong champion. It’s nothing but a psychological strategy. Defend yourself and keep your head high. We believe in you and we are supporting you through these times,” Ifeoluwa Leo-Olagbaiye commented.
Another fan, Emeka Kanu-Ngbemena, said, “You will be fine, Tobi. I have a personal conviction that your integrity is intact & that you are clean. Bless up and fear not.”
The Nigerian set the current world record for the women’s 100m hurdles in a time of 12.12 seconds at last year’s World Athletics Championships in Oregon.
Ahead of this year’s championships in Budapest, her form has steadily improved, running a new season’s best of 12.34 seconds at the Silesia Diamond League meeting in Poland on Sunday to win her second consecutive race of the season, while she also won on Tuesday in Hungary at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold.