Christine Ohuruogu, the 2006 Commonwealth 400 metres champion (50,28) and London 2012 Olympic hopeful, is facing high noon tomorow as she appeals the length of her drugs ban before the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday.
The one-day hearing will take place at a secret location in London, writes Sportinglife.com (source), and Ohuruogu will ask the CAS tribunal to overturn the one-year ban imposed for missing three out-of-competition doping tests in an 18-month period - an offense which violates IAAF Rule 32,2(d).
Ohuruogu, who was given a provisional ban by UK Athletics disciplinary board in August, faced a the independent hearing on Monday, 15-September-2006. The board, after hearing the case, insisted Ohuruogu had violated anti-doping by missing three out-of-competition (random) drug tests when she admitted to the wrong-doing, but they didn't believe she had done so intentionally, stating she "had no intention of infringing the anti-doping rules".
UK Athletics' chief executive David Moorcroft said following the hearing: "For any anti-doping rule violation, UK Athletics appoints an independent disciplinary committee to consider the facts of the case in the context of the rules of our sport.
"We operate within a very stringent regime and accept the decision the independent disciplinary committee has made."
Ohuruogu, a 22-year-old east Londoner who missed her first test on 12-October, 2005, is unlikely to hear the findings immediately.
"That is very unlikely. It normally takes two or three weeks, with members going away to consider the case in detail before making their decision," said Mattieu Reeb, secretary general of CAS.
Ohuruogu's lawyers are thought to be planning an assault against the IAAF rules, stating that the 12-month ban handed out under IAAF guidelines is too stringent.
Ohuruogu, whom Brits consider to be a genuine medal possibility for the 2012 Olympics in her home city, London, has insisted she will quit the sport if her appeal process is unsuccessful.
BBC quoted Ohuruogu as stating "I am utterly devastated and completely heartbroken by the decision to exclude me from competing," following the UK decision to ban her from one year. She is further quoted as stating she would then "be forced to rationally consider my athletics future in light of today's decision" (link).
According to press reports, four British sportsmen and women who also committed the offence - including world triathlon champion Tim Don, and only received three-month punishments.
Paula Radcliffe, one of the world's leading outspoken anti-doping campaigners, believes because of the disparity, Ohuruogu was harshly punished.
Radcliffe said: "If Christine lived in any other country, she would not be serving a 12-month ban and that is not fair.
"I think it is good that the rules are strictly applied in Britain but it cannot be different in other countries.
"I don't think for one minute she is guilty of doping."
Though Ohuruogu has athletes and fan support on her side, UK Sport Director of drug-free sport, John Scott, staunchly defended the punishment handed out to Ohuruogu in September.
"The sanction is in line with that set out within the IAAF's rules and reflects the seriousness of the offense," he told BBC.
Meanwhile, Steve Backley, the four-time European Championships javelin gold medalist (1990-2002), believes the misshap is circumstantial - the result of an administrative mishap.
BBC quotes him as stating, "I know from first-hand experience it is tough to know exactly where you are going to be at every point of every day.
"I don't think for one second Christine Ohuruogu has tried to gain an unfair advantage or tried to avoid testing by any means.
"I think she has just been busy preparing for these championships and possibly not been where she thought was going to be on a daily basis.
"If that is the case and there is talk of her possibly missing the Olympics in the future, that is an absolute tragedy for Christine."
Ohuruogu is not the only athlete who has been in the spotlight regarding missing tests.
UK Athletics performance director Dave Colins stated on 8-August-2006 that Britons missed 70 tests in a span of 18 months.
"They are very aware of the seriousness of the situation and we are working with them," he stated on Radio Four's Today programme (link).
Asked if the four were high-profile athletes, Collins replied, "varying".
One such elite person on the bubble is Becky Lyne, Briton's top 800m runner, who has missed two tests, and in danger of being suspended if she misses a third.
Lyne, the European 800 metres bronze medallist (1.58,45) here in Göteborg, has missed two out-of-competition drug tests, leaving her just one missed test away from a one-year ban - and, possibly even missing out on the Olympic Games in 2012.
"It's true that I've missed two tests and I'm very ashamed of the fact that I'm in this tricky situation," Lyne admitted to the Telegraph.
"I know the tests have to be carried out in order to catch the cheats but I don't want to be branded a cheat for having missed two tests. Basically, now that I'm on two missed tests, I am extra, extra cautious not to miss any more."
"Now I have reminders everywhere and I have several people who I have asked to keep on reminding me," she said.
"The problem is that it's been very difficult for me to get into a routine this year. I recently moved house and even this week I've been staying at two different addresses.
"In the case of Christine and now Tim Don, it's really awful for them to be associated with a doping offence when I actually believe that they are innocent. It is very easy to miss a test but, at the same time, athletes have got to take responsibility."
British athletes are not the only ones who fear the out-of-competition testing system.
Carolina Klüft stated to Expressen newspaper that she's terrified (almost literally) of forgetting where she should be on a given day, as she has to provide written accounts three months ahead of time of where she will be 24/7.
Klüft stated she is very spontaneous, and this testing system denies her that spontaneity (like going to IKEA or her parents house just because she feels like it). She's had luck, she states, as she has a few times come upon it at the last minute that she was due at a location she stated three months ahead of time.
Klüft stated (in half jest) that one should implant in her a GPS chip so that they know where she is at.
Our testers seem to be a bit more lenient on the athletes here - an impression you may get from reading this article, where testers state that, for example, if an athlete (Klüft) was not at one locale, they would head to her home and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, should she (or anyone else) continue to be unreachable, they would be forced to provide the athletics federation here an explanation, which must then be approved.
Our drug testers, as likely is the case with the UK testers, believe the athletes think this is a good process which works well for the athletes, whereas Klüft is absolutely petrified of being away for an unannounced one.
Ohuruogu has ample time to prepare for the 2007 IAAF World Championships if her CAS appeal is successful. The world championships begin in August in Osaka.
A CAS decision in her favour would almost certainly assist her in overturning a British Olympic Association ruling banning drug offenders from competing at future Olympic Games - a championship setting which will forever be devoid of British sprinter Dwain Chambers, as he is serving a lifetime ban from Olympic Games by UK Sport for his involvement with BALCO and performance-enhancing drugs abuse.
IAAF Seven-step process when unable to successfully test an athlete (link):
- Step 1: The Doping Control Officer has made reasonable attempts to conduct a test on the athlete in accordance with the IAAF DCO Out-of-Competition Testing Policy but has been unable to do so and files an Unsuccessful Attempt Form with the IAAF.
- Step 2: Upon receipt of the Unsuccessful Attempt Form, the IAAF verifies that the DCO has acted in accordance with the DCO Out-of-Competition Testing Policy in seeking to locate the athlete.
- Step 3: If the IAAF is satisfied that the DCO has acted in accordance with the DCO Out-of-Competition Testing Policy and that there are grounds for a missed test, the IAAF Anti-Doping Administrator initiates a missed test evaluation.
- Step 4: The Anti-Doping Administrator notifies the athlete of the evaluation and invites the athlete to provide an explanation for the unsuccessful test attempt within 10 days.
- Step 5: The Anti-Doping Administrator reviews the athlete’s explanation and all other relevant documents in the file before deciding whether to declare a missed test.
- Step 6: The athlete is notified in writing of the Anti-Doping Administrator’s decision.
- Step 7: Upon notification of a missed test, the athlete has 21 days to notify the IAAF in writing that he/she intends to appeal the missed test at any future hearing for an anti-doping rule violation for 3 missed tests in accordance with IAAF Rule 32.2(d).