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Brianna McNeal, Olympic hurdles champ, can race Trials while appealing ban

Brianna McNeal

USA’s Mcneal Brianna (C) reacts after winning the 100 m hurdles women’s event at the Morocco Diamond League athletics competition in the Stadium Prince Moulay Abdellah of Rabat on July 13, 2018. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP) (Photo credit should read FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Brianna McNeal, the Rio Olympic 100m hurdles champion, was banned five years for tampering with part of a doping control process but can compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month while appealing.

Her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport will be heard before the Tokyo Games, according to the Athletics Integrity Unit, which announced the ban, backdated to Aug. 15, 2020, on Friday. If the ban is upheld, McNeal will be suspended through the next two Olympics -- Tokyo and Paris in 2024.

Details of McNeal’s case have not been published for confidentiality reasons, according to the AIU on Friday.

On Saturday, McNeal’s representatives said the case involved “a misunderstanding related to an explanation” that McNeal voluntarily provided to the AIU over a January 2020 missed drug test.

“The AIU has not accused Brianna McNeal of ever using any banned substances, has not accused Brianna McNeal of evading doping control; and has not accused Brianna McNeal of tampering with any urine sample or blood sample,” according to a release. “Had she ignored the AIU’s request that she explain the circumstances of that missed test, there would have been no consequences.”

Athletes can be suspended for missing three drug tests in a one-year span (which was the case for McNeal’s one-year suspension in 2017), but the January 2020 missed test would not have been her third strike in one year, according to the release.

“Once all of this blows over I will provide more details of what’s actually going on,” was posted on McNeal’s social media in February, three weeks after her provisional suspension was announced while awaiting a hearing on the charges. “The system is pretty messed up if you ask me but that’s another topic for another day.”

An athlete’s second suspension over anti-doping rules usually carries a lengthier penalty, even if neither was for failing a drug test.

McNeal, now 29, led a U.S. medals sweep of the 100m hurdles in Rio.

She then missed the 2017 World Championships while serving the previous ban. In that case, an arbitration panel believed that McNeal was a clean athlete, showing “no evidence of avoiding testing, masking drug use, or using drugs.”

At the 2019 Worlds, McNeal false started out of the first round of the 100m hurdles.

She did not contest a 100m hurdles race in 2020, but did compete in sprints between 60m and 150m and the indoor 60m hurdles.

McNeal ranks seventh among Americans in the 100m hurdles since the start of 2019. The top three in the Olympic Trials on June 20 go to Tokyo.

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