‘Nigeria-born Bahraini world champion is innocent’
Salwa Eid Naser’s legal representatives, Dr Emir Crowne and Matthew Gayle, have denied charges of a whereabouts violation brought against her by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), reports jamaica-gleaner.com.
The Nigeria-born Bahraini quarter-miler, formerly known as Ebelechuku Agbapuonu, retained the services of the Trinidadian attorneys after being investigated for allegedly missing three doping tests in a 12-month period before her victory in the 400m event at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, in October. AIU also alleges that she missed the fourth test in January of this year.
Crowne said his team does not want to say much about the approach for the pending hearing before an independent disciplinary panel.
“I don’t want to reveal too much about our strategy,” he said. “Save to say, that we’ve denied the charges and reserved all of Ms. Naser’s defences (including the right to seek a reduction in the period of ineligibility, if any) and the fairness of disqualifying any applicable competitive results.”
No date has been set for a preliminary hearing so far, but Crowne says the team recently notified the Disciplinary Tribunal requesting a hearing. This tribunal, which is independent of the AIU, is administered by Sport Resolutions, which is based in London, England, and is set up to determine all-first instance disciplinary cases under the World Athletics Anti-Doping (WADA) Rules or the World Athletics Integrity Code of Conduct.
Crowne expects that if and when a hearing is approved, it will rely heavily on teleconferencing.
“Given COVID-19, it’s likely that the hearing will take place through teleconferencing or videoconference, but nothing has been confirmed yet,” he said.
Under WADA rules, athletes are required to provide regular updates on their whereabouts to make it possible for anti-doping authorities to carry out surprise testing outside of competition. A violation means an athlete either did not fill out forms telling authorities where he or she could be found or that athletes weren’t where they said they would be when testers arrived.
If found guilty, Naser could lose her World Championship gold medal, while the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who finished second in the 400m final, would be upgraded from silver to gold, and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, who was third, would have her bronze medal upgraded to silver.
Crowne is famous locally for being the legal representative of Jamaican athletes Dominique Blake, Riker Hylton, and Briana Hylton in previous anti-doping hearings against the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission.
After an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, Crowne was successful in getting Blake’s ban reduced from six to four and a half years in 2014. In 2017, he was also successful in seeing Hylton cleared of all charges of evading sample collection or refusing to submit a sample for a drug test.
Crowne was also successful in reducing punishment for Williams to just a reprimand with no period of ineligibility, as he was able to prove she was not at fault for testing positive for a banned substance.
He and Gayle will represent Naser on a pro bono (without fee) basis.