© Copyright – 2024 – Athletics Illustrated

There is a doping problem in the sport of athletics. One manifestation is the manipulation of the Whereabouts program by athletes who cheat.

The Whereabouts program is about athletes showing up at their designated pre-planned time to have a doping control officer (DCO) take a sample for drug testing. These tests are done out-of-competition typically at the athlete’s home.

One recently banned athlete, Mo Katir has been banned for missing three tests within 12 months. Doing so is considered deserving of the same penalty as doping; worth a four-year appeallable ban.

Was Katir gaming the system?

The 25-year-old Spanish athlete accepted a two-year ban from competition for missing three tests within 12 months.

According to an Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) press release, Katir signed off on his failure and accepted the two-year ban. The suspension runs from February 7, 2024, to February. 6, 2026.

Katir is in the Registered Testing Pool (RPT), which is designated by national anti-doping organizations. The organizations must designate a pool of athletes to be subject to the highest level of anti-doping rules.

Katir holds three national records. Two are in the 1500m, 3000m indoors or “short track,” events. He also holds the national and European record in the 5000m event. At the Monaco Diamond League meet in July 2023, he bettered Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s European record of 12:48.45 with his 12:45.01 performance.

Apparently, Katir was home the third time that a DCO knocked on his door. It is alleged that his father, who answered the door, said that Katir was training at a track 30 minutes away, so was unavailable. It is further alleged that Katir went onto his profile in the online Whereabouts program and changed his availability time shortly after the DCO left; fewer than the 30 minutes it would require him to make it home after his workout.

One trick is to load a cell phone with messages so that the mailbox becomes full and a DCO cannot get a hold of the athlete. Then, once or twice, miss the scheduled testing time, but make it for the third. Doing so gives the athlete another round of potential out-of-competition tests. Microdosing can be used, so the athlete can plan when the performance-enhancing drugs are cleared from the system allowing the athlete to dope between out-of-competition tests and perhaps in-competition tests too.

Others banned athletes

Kenyan Kennedy Cheboror

Earlier this month, Kenyan Kennedy Kiprop Cheboror was handed a two-year ban by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

The 33-year-old was provisionally suspended for whereabouts failures and after enough investigation.

Common red flags are performance jumps. Katir had a performance jump that raised eyebrows. In 2017, he ran the 1500m event in 3:52.79. His personal best is now 3:28.76 from 2023. His performances in the 3000m and 5000m had similar jumps at the same time. In 2016, Cheboror ran a 2:26:27 marathon, in Seville, then began running much faster. At least four times he has run 2:06 to 2:08 — a world of difference.

Jamaican Tiffany James-Rose

The 2016 World Under-20 champion Tiffany James-Rose, a Jamaican 400m runner, has been suspended.

This comes after she was given a two-year ban by the AIU for a whereabouts violation with her ban starting in Nov. 2023 and will extend to November 2025.

The suspension was handed to her after James-Rose missed out-of-competition tests within 12 months. Her missed tests are allegedly related to her pregnancy. At the time James-Rose was four months pregnant when she missed two of her three tests.

“I found myself in a situation where I had to be making trips to neighbouring states for emergency visits because of my pregnancy and, unfortunately, it happened on the two times when I was there,” she told Sportsmax TV.

“My husband’s father was here when they knocked on the door and I wasn’t here. It was like ‘Why did it have to happen on the two days that I did a morning visit and not on Sunday or something like that.”

The answer is, that the schedule (window) is set well in advance and athletes must be available during that time; a time accepted by the athlete. The national athletics federations must submit a list of athletes to the testing pool. Her name was given and she knew when the DCOs would be at her door.

Christian Coleman

American sprinter, Christian Coleman, who was suspended for two years had his ban reduced by six months to 18 months, some of which is backdated. However, he was forced to miss the Tokyo Olympic Games. He is back competing and giving fellow American Noah Lyles stiff competition. Expect both to be in the final of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Coleman originally appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The CAS reduced the suspension as they found that he was less negligent than initially assumed.

Athletes in the Registered Testing Pool are required to submit whereabouts information through ADAMS, a web-based program which allows athletes to submit and update whereabouts information from anywhere in the world at any time. Requests for exceptions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

A number of athletes have said that if someone misses three tests they are either cheating or an idiot. American middle-distance athlete Jenny Simpson told Let’s Run those exact words published in an editorial about nine whereabouts cases in 2020. Similarly, Paul Chelimo told Let’s Run, “If they come to my place and they don’t find me, it’s not their fault — it’s my fault at that point.”

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