Noted attorney Dr Emil Crowne thinks Chris Taylor's anti-doping charge excessive
Christopher Taylor competes during the World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, on Friday, July 22, 2022. (Photos: Observer File)

NOTED sports attorney Dr Emir Crowne has blasted the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) for what he described as a disproportionate charge against Jamaican 400m athlete Christopher Taylor who was on Friday charged by the anti-doping body for a rule violation stemming from a November 2022 incident.

Taylor, the Olympic and World Championships finalist, was deemed to have violated the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Anti-Doping Rule Article 2.3, which speaks to evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection.

The rule says that "Evading sample collection, or without compelling justification refusing or failing to submit to sample collection after notification as authorised in applicable anti-doping rules" are constituted violations.

Crowne, a foremost figure in international sports law and one of the most experienced attorneys in anti-doping cases involving track and field athletes, believes that the 23-year-old Jamaican should have merely been charged with a whereabouts violation, which in Taylor's case would have meant no penalty.

CROWNE...based on what's in the public domain I think, with all due respect, this is an overreach by the anti-doping authorities.

"Based on what's in the public domain I think, with all due respect, this is an overreach by the anti-doping authorities," Crowne told the Jamaica Observer.

As it stands, Taylor is facing a minimum two-year ban which could rise to a four-year suspension if he fails to establish that the commission of the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional.

Taylor is being legally represented by another top figure in international sports law, Paul Greene, who was unable to comment on the development yesterday.

Based on our information, anti-doping officials turned up to conduct a test at the location Taylor had indicated on his whereabouts form.

However, when the officials arrived Taylor was not at the listed location, had not updated his whereabouts information, and was instead at the Norman Manley International Airport waiting to catch a flight that had previously been booked on his behalf.

Athletes who are a part of the registered testing pool are required to provide certain information, which is used by anti-doping organisations to locate athletes for out-of-competition testing. The information includes home address and contact information; overnight accommodations information in cases when they are away from home; training, work, school and competition schedules and locations; as well as a one-hour time slot for each day when they will be available for testing.

If an athlete is not where they say they would be at the particular point when anti-doping officials turn up for testing, that can count as a missed test. Critically, while a first or second offence does not carry any penalty, if an athlete misses three tests during a 12-month period this constitutes a 'Whereabouts Violation', which results in an automatic period of ineligibility for the athlete.

Additionally, if an athlete is deemed to have violated WADA Anti-Doping Code Article 2.3 that speaks to "evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection" — which is the charge being made against Taylor — a two- or four-year ban is mandatory.

The differentiation between a simple 'missed test' and a charge of evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection, centres around contact and arrangements being made between the doping control officer and athlete for the facilitation of testing, which are then not honoured.

Crowne is convinced that the charge being laid against Taylor is excessive and believes that anti-doping agencies should be more mindful of the impact of their decisions on athletes' careers.

"It is a clear overreach, quite frankly. The type of conduct envisioned by evasion and refusal and so on is not the type of conduct at play here. Here you have someone who, through failures of whereabouts information, was boarding a plane. It's not like he had the power to stop the flight," said Crowne.

"This should have been a whereabouts violation; this should not have been an evasion or refusal allegation. It's an overreach, and I think anti-doping authorities have to take some responsibility when athletes' careers and reputations are in their hands," he added.

"Here you have a young black male, Jamaican athlete, and his career is on the line for what I believe genuinely to be an overreach by the anti-doping authorities. This is a whereabouts failure, at best. It is not a refusal or evasion to board a scheduled flight that you had booked, and is easily verifiable," Crowne said. "I honestly hope that he does get the best outcome because, as I said, the anti-doping authorities have overreached in this matter."

Meanwhile, sports medicine specialist and former Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) Doping Control Officer Dr Paul Wright believes more should be done to educate athletes on the various anti-doping regulations, and called for mandatory sessions.

"What is needed is regular seminars with those athletes in the testing pool, with sanctions if you miss two or more seminars," said Wright.

JADCO Chairman Alexander Williams and president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association Garth Gayle have both confirmed that they have received notification of the violation.

"We are aware of the alleged anti-doping rule violation involving our athlete Christopher Taylor. He has legal representation and is going through the process. We are unable to comment further at this time and eagerly await the outcome," said Gayle.

Taylor will face a disciplinary hearing in the coming weeks.

BY ANDRE LOWE Sports content manager lowea@jamaicaobserver.com

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