Raven Saunders, who claimed an Olympic silver medal in the women’s shot put at the Tokyo Games, has accepted an 18-month suspension for not turning up to doping tests.
The fact that she missed three tests in the space of a year – January 8, May 26 and August 15 – means Saunders won’t return to competition until mid-February next year.
The 26-year-old US athlete will therefore not be able to compete at this year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest but will be eligible for the Paris Olympics.
A colourful character, quite literally at times, Saunders made headlines on and off the field at the Tokyo Olympics. She wore an “Incredible Hulk” mask to match her nickname and also used her platform to bring attention to social injustice and the importance of mental health.
Saunders has a personal best of 19.96m, set at the 2021 USATF Championships, is sixth on the US all-time shot put list.
“Accurate Whereabouts information is crucial to locate athletes for effective out-of-competition testing, which helps deter and detect doping by enabling no-advance notice sample collection,” USA Anti-Doping said.
“This is especially important because some prohibited substances have limited detection windows and the most effective test timing must remain unpredictable. All athletes within USADA’s RTP and Clean Athlete Pool are required to provide accurate and up-to-date whereabouts in accordance with the anti-doping rules.
It marks the fourth high-profile US track and field athlete to receive a suspension for missed doping tests since 2020.
The others are Christian Coleman, Garrett Scantling and Randolph Ross.
Her publicist, Jerry Doby, stated: “The announcement of her suspension comes as a surprise to many, as Saunders has been a role model and leader in the sports world, particularly for her advocacy for mental health.
“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. 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.”