Suspended Nigerian-born Bahrain world champion Salwa Eid Naser has said that she has never cheated, after missing a fourth drugs test.
The Bahraini athlete, who raised eyebrows at the World Championships in 2019 by running the fastest 400m time since 1985, is facing a potential two-year ban over an alleged ‘whereabouts’ violation.
Under the rules, three missed tests or filing failures in a rolling one-year span will trigger a charge – Naser admitted on Saturday that she missed three tests ahead of the worlds in Doha, prompting bemusement in the sport over why she was cleared to run, and it has now been confirmed that she went on to miss a fourth test in January of this year, Daily Mail reports.
Naser beat Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo to claim a surprise gold medal in a spectacular time of 48.14 seconds in Doha – a feat only surpassed by two runners in the 1980s who were heavily suspected of being part of systemic, state-sponsored drug-taking despite never failing tests.
“I’ve never been a cheat,” Naser told her fans during an Instagram live video, insisting that “it’s going to be fine.” “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.
“This year I have not been drug tested. Hopefully it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened.”
The first Asian woman to win 400m gold at the world championships, Naser moved to Bahrain from Nigeria at the age of 14 and went on to win gold at the 2014 Arab Junior Athletics Championships as a 16-year-old.
Fans on the sprint star’s Instagram, where she has more than 34,000 followers, reacted with confusion and conflicting opinions. “Thought you were better than that,” said one.
“[Testing] comes with being a professional athlete. I don’t care what excuses she may come up with but missing three drug tests is suspicious no matter how you put it.”
An apologist for Naser argued: “The protocols demand you fill in your whereabouts for an hour in every day of your f*cking career. They will test within this period without you knowing that they are coming.
“This is mind-boggling. Even the most fastidious miss at least a test. You can easily get careless or get carried away. Besides, it is a provisional ban – she can contest it successfully and get exonerated.”
Naser admitted finding it “very hard to have this little stain on my name.”
“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” she added. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”
Three leading Bahraini female runners have tested positive for doping in recent years. Olympic steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet and Olympic marathon runner-up Eunice Kirwa both tested positive for using substances to increase their red blood cells.
Each received the same four-year ban as world indoor 400m champion Kemi Adekoya, who was found to have taken anabolic steroids.