21 March 2023

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ended 17 March 2023

Twenty athletes from six countries, competing in 13 sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light in the week ending 17 March. Cases involved a US Shot Put Silver medalist from Tokyo 2020; a Ukrainian Olympic champion gymnast who halved a four year ban that caused him to miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics; a 62 year old US weightlifter; and an Indian triple jumper who was exonerated after initially being sanctioned with a four year ban.

Raven Saunders, Silver medalist in the Shot Put at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, was sanctioned with an 18 month ban over three ‘whereabouts failures’ in 12 months. Despite the careful wording used by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in its statement, it was widely reported that Saunders had ‘missed’ three doping tests. 

A ‘whereabouts failure’ doesn’t necessarily mean that an athlete has missed a doping test. USADA told The Sports Integrity Initiative that Saunders had been sanctioned for one Missed Test and two Filing Failures. This meant that a Doping Control Officer (DCO) failed to locate her on three separate occasions.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, athletes that are members of a Registered Testing Pool (RTP) must file information including their overnight location, competition and training schedules, as well as a location where they will be available for testing for one hour in every 24, three months in advance (although this can later be amended) through the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS). If the athlete is not where they say they will be, that constitutes a ‘Missed Test’. If the filed information is judged to be inaccurate or incomplete, that constitutes a ‘Filing Failure’. Any combination of three Missed Tests and/or Filing Failures is sanctioned as a ‘whereabouts failure’, equivalent to an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) subject to a two year ban.

“Following her outstanding performances in Tokyo, Saunders celebrated her silver medal win with her mother by phone and video chat before heading home to the States”, her publicist Jerry Doby told Athletics Weekly. “However, she had no idea that her mother would suffer a fatal health incident while attending an official Olympics watch party in Orlando after celebrating with her daughter. 

“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.”

Oleg Verniaiev (Олег Верняєв) won a Gold Medal on the Parallel Bars at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which the Ukrainian was unable to defend after being sanctioned with a four year ban. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed until 23 July 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On 13 July, the international gymnastics federation (FIG) sanctioned him with a four year ban due to an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) involving Meldonium.

Verniaiev appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) blaming contaminated food. The CAS halved his ban, which ended on 5 November last year. 

‘It was a long process, during which I proved that I had no intention to dope’, the gymnast wrote on Instagram (below). ‘The court reduced the sanction twice. This suggests that the court agreed with my arguments and confirmed that Meldonium got into my body without my fault or negligence.’


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Oleg Verniaiev (@verniaiev13)

Robert Scavilla is a 62 year old US weightlifter who competed in the Pan American Masters Weightlifting Championships in Puerto Rico. He returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT), and the Puerto Rico Anti-Doping Organisation transferred the case to USADA. 

Scavilla submitted supplement lists dating back to 2001 and medication lists dating back to 2015. He also detailed the products and supplements used by his partner; performed Laboratory analysis on Dymatize Creatine; described his travel schedule; detailed an Anthrax vaccination; as well as a free drink he consumed in 2001. He was unable to establish the source and was sanctioned with a four year ban.

Indian triple jumper Renu Grewal was initially sanctioned with a four year ban in September last year for refusing a doping test. She has been exonerated on appeal and is now free to compete. The Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) of the Indian national anti-doping agency (NADA India) accepted that her refusal to take the test was justified, as NADA India had permitted her Coach to attend her sample collection session at a training camp.

In addition to the unauthorised presence of her Coach, Renu told the Times of India that DCOs refused to present identification. As her Coach had refused her permission to train at Bhim Stadium in Bhiwani, where the test was due to take place, she suspected foul play and left the stadium.

Please continue to send any cases we may have missed or suggestions through to the editor by clicking here. Also, if you’re an athlete, national anti-doping organisation (NADO) or other Results Management Authority and you’d like us to cover a case that you’re involved with, please get in touch! Also – a reminder. The SII Anti-Doping Monitor only features confirmed AAFs (‘positive tests’) or confirmed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs).

Decision links

Ms. Renu & Mr. Vinay (NADA India Sanction List);

Maël Monchauzou (AFLD Statement);

Yohann Marin (AFLD Statement);

Angelina Zhuravleva (ITF Statement, full Decision);

Oleg Verniaiev (CAS Statement, initial FIG Statement);

Valeria Chepsarakova (RUSADA Statement);

Vyacheslav Kosov (RUSADA Statement);

Yulia Serzhantova (RUSADA Statement);

Evgeny Chistyakov (RUSADA Statement);

Jordan Oliver (USADA Statement, USADA Statement on first sanction);

Raven Saunders (USADA Statement);

Giulio Scopetani (NADO Italia Statement);

Gianluca Leonetti (NADO Italia Statement);

Robert Scavilla 62 (USADA Statement, AAA Decision);

Purity Changwony (AIU Statement);

Antonio Pinna (NADO Italia Statement);

Nicola Mughetti (NADO Italia Statement);

Mikkel Dreyer Videbaek (NADO Italia Statement);

Yegor Kibakin (RusAF Statement)

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