‘Why was she allowed to compete?’ – British athletes hit out after Salwa Eid Naser denied them world medal

Salwa Eid Naser - AP
Salwa Eid Naser – AP

British athletes have hit out after it emerged world 400 metres champion Salwa Eid Naser denied them a medal at last year’s World Championships despite missing three drugs tests in the build-up, and was only provisionally suspended after missing a fourth test this January.  

Naser, who was born and raised in Nigeria but represents Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for anti-doping test whereabouts failures on Friday, eight months after clocking the third fastest 400m time in history to win the world title. She was also the standout name in a Bahrain mixed 4x400m team that pipped Britain to bronze by less than half a second.

Naser prompted anger by insisting missing three tests «is normal», despite it carrying a potential punishment of a two-year ban. The Athletics Integrity Unit – the global body in charge of anti-doping in the sport – on Sunday confirmed she had not only missed three tests prior to the World Championships, but also missed a fourth a few months later.

«The investigation into Ms Naser’s three whereabouts failures in 2019 was ongoing at the time of the Doha World Championships and she was not provisionally suspended at that time,» said the AIU.

«Following conclusion of the investigation and a fourth whereabouts failure in January 2020, a notice of charge was issued and Ms Naser subject to an immediate provisional suspension. The disciplinary process is ongoing.»

Athletes are required to provide regular updates on their whereabouts for anti-doping authorities to carry out testing outside of competition. Three violations within 12 months can lead to a suspension.

Martyn Rooney, who ran the anchor leg in Britain’s mixed 4x400m team that finished fourth in Doha, told Telegraph Sport: “It should have been pretty straightforward that she wouldn’t be allowed to run.

“I understand that she’s a big name and a big name for the Middle East and they want as much local coverage as they can get. But it casts doubt on the point of the whole AIU if they are going to let people run even if they’ve missed three tests.

“I understand there’s protocol and everything has to be done properly, but if there’s suspicion then take her out of the game. Why was she allowed to compete?”

Third-leg runner Emily Diamond, who followed Rabah Yousif and Zoey Clarke, said: “It really makes you lose faith in those who are meant to be protecting the sport that someone could potentially be breaking the rules, but yet they are allowed to compete.

“The worrying thing as well is her belief that it’s normal. For an elite athlete to come out and say that is almost as worrying as her being able to compete having missed three tests.”

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Naser’s 400m gold medal-winning time of 48.14 seconds saw her smash her personal best by almost a second and was the fastest in the world since 1985, catapulting her to third on the all-time list behind East German world record holder Marita Koch and Jarmila Kratochvilova, of Czechoslovakia.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram Live video on Saturday. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

She added: “Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened. It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu, Naser changed her name in 2014 when she switched allegiance and started competing for Bahrain. Her provisional suspension is the latest in a series of doping cases against Bahrain’s elite squad of female runners.

Olympic steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet and Olympic marathon runner-up Eunice Kirwa both received four-year bans for EPO in the past year. Both women were born in Kenya before changing allegiance to Bahrain.