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Raven Saunders, Olympic shot put medalist, banned until 2024

Athletics - Olympics: Day 7

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 30: Raven Saunders of Team United States competes in the Women’s Shot Put Qualification on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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Olympic shot put silver medalist Raven Saunders accepted a ban until February 2024 for drug-testing whereabouts failures.

A suspension for whereabouts failures means any combination of three missed drug tests and/or filing failures in a 12-month period. A filing failure could mean incorrectly filling out forms to tell drug testers where an athlete can be found, or not submitting quarterly forms at all.

Saunders failed “to follow an administrative policy regarding updating her whereabouts,” according to a statement from her representative that stated she has never tested positive for any banned substances or performance-enhancing drugs.

She “has accepted full responsibility for her failure to update her whereabouts according to the prescribed procedure on multiple occasions. She will use the time during her suspension to focus on her mental health and intensify her training to prepare for the Paris Games.”

Saunders, 26, had whereabouts failures last year on Jan. 8, May 26 and Aug. 15, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

She was banned 18 months, backdated to Aug. 15, the day of her third whereabouts failure. Saunders will miss this year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships and world championships but remains eligible for the next Olympics in 2024.

Saunders, who has been open about struggles with mental health, was one of the breakout track and field stars of the Tokyo Games. After receiving her medal, she crossed her arms above her head to form an “X,” which she said was “to try and bring the world together for all people who have felt left behind, for all people who have wanted to be loved but have been loved less.”

Two days after the final, Saunders received a phone call from the U.S. Her mother, Clarissa, suffered a seizure and was en route to a hospital, a doctor told her. Later, Saunders’ uncle called and told her that Clarissa had died.

Saunders underwent major hip surgery in fall 2021, then was fourth at last year’s USATF Outdoor Championships, missing the world team by one spot.

“Combined with recovery from a second major hip surgery in the fall of 2021 which affected her performance at the USA Team qualifier in 2022, and handling the estate of her mother and newfound responsibility for her sibling, Saunders came under a veritable mountain of additional life pressure alongside the pressures of being an elite athlete,” according to the statement. “Despite this tragic loss, Saunders remains committed to her athletic career and using her platform to raise awareness for mental health issues. She has expressed regret for failing to comply with the USADA policy and acknowledges the importance of upholding the integrity of sports and anti-doping efforts.”

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