Many of you may remember the controversy concerning the Great Britain women’s 4 x 100 relay team missing qualification for London 2012 and allegations that the then GB head coach Charles van Commenee was, at best, unenthusiastic about the team’s attempts at qualification.
Now, nearly two years later it seems that, due to a retrospective doping ban on an Olympic finalist, they actually did earn a place at their home Games.
The athlete in question is Semoy Hackett, a Trinidadian who reached the final of the 200m in London, and the story starts at the 2011 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships. It was there that Hackett failed a drug test for Methylhexaneamine and earned a retrospective drug suspension that disqualified her nation from 4th place in the 4 x 100 m at the 2011 World Championships. This also had the effect of voiding times that would have helped Trinidad qualify for an Olympic sprint relay place.
After serving a six month suspension she returned in early summer 2012 to qualify for a place at the Olympic Games. In early June she helped her American college, Louisiana State, win the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships but again she tested positive for the same drug.
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This is where things get interesting – in an interview with Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, LSU Coach Dennis Shaver said that the University had told by the NCAA of the failed test in late June.
This may have been too late for the IAAF to set the full disciplinary process into action but it’s possible that Trinidad may have considered voluntarily removing Hackett from the Olympic team or even withdrawing the relay team completely. None of this proved possible as the test findings were only released when it was announced that Louisiana State had been stripped of their title in November 2012. After the announcement it was reported by the Trinidad Athletics Federation and IAAF that they had not yet been advised of the failed test by the NCAA. In this regard, the IAAF were innocent bystanders.
Eventually Trinidad cleared their athlete of any misdemeanour but, on the eve of her competing at the 2013 World Championship, the IAAF appealed the case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
The case never actually reached the court as the two parties made an agreement before which resulted in Hackett being banned for 28 months and losing all results since the NCAA meeting.
And if Hackett lost her results then so too do the Trinidad 4 x 100 women’s relay team. Their two best times were set on the same day which now sits in the middle of the period where her results were annulled. The Trinidadians, who originally placed 11th of the 16 qualified relay teams for London 2012, now find themselves with only one valid time and ineligible for Olympic qualification.
So that brings us back to Great Britain’s female sprint relay team who missed London after finishing 17th on the qualifying table. With Trinidad dropping out they move up to 16th and earn a theoretical place at the 2012 Olympics.
All this is probably no comfort to the British sprinters who missed out on a place at a once-in-a-lifetime event but at least they can say they earned a place at the Olympics. Small consolation.