Raven Saunders gets 18-month ban for missed doping tests

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Raven Saunders, the U.S. silver-medal shot putter who used her triumph at the Tokyo Olympics to bring attention to social injustice, has been suspended for 18 months for failing to show up for doping tests.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced the sanction Wednesday for the 26-year-old, saying she had committed three “whereabouts failures” within a 12-month period ending on Aug. 15. She will miss this year’s world championships, but would be eligible for the Paris Olympics next year.

Saunders often comes to meets with brightly colored hair and wearing an “Incredible Hulk” mask. At the end of the medal presentation at the 2021 Olympics, she stepped off the podium and formed an “X” with her wrists. She explained the “X” stood for “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

Saunders has been outspoken about growing up in poverty and her bouts with depression. She went to the University of Mississippi, is a four-time NCAA champion and won USA Track and Field’s Humanitarian Award in 2021.

Saunders joins a growing list of high-profile athletes who have been banned for missed tests, including world-champion sprinters Christian Coleman and Salwa Eid Naser. While a series of missed tests can lead to bans, they are not considered proof that an athlete was using prohibited substances.

Saunders finished fourth at U.S. nationals last year and did not qualify for worlds. Shortly after, she announced she was taking the rest of 2022 off. That came about a month before her final missed test. The other two were in January and May.

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