Brianna McNeal qualified for Tokyo to defend her Olympic title on Sunday, but her Olympic eligibility remains in jeopardy.
McNeal crossed the line in second place in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, earning an all-important top-three spot with Keni Harrison (first place) and Christina Clemons (third). Yet the reigning Olympic champion is in an ongoing appeals battle. She is facing a five-year ban for violating anti-doping rules, an international disciplinary panel ruled earlier this month.
McNeal, 29, is accused of "tampering within the results management process," according to a ruling from the Athletics Integrity Unit, which declined to release the full text of its decision – including specifics about the violation – due to "confidentiality reasons." The AIU runs the anti-doping program for track and field's international governing body.
McNeal was allowed to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials while her appeal is pending. She did her job on the track by finishing second Sunday.
“I can celebrate this. I’m just happy I had the opportunity to be able to compete here. I thank God for that. It’s been a long journey,” McNeal said. “The next few weeks I’m just going to continue to pray and trust in God to see me through and hope that all things work out for my good. I’m just gonna take it day by day.”
Gabbi Cunningham, who finished fourth in the hurdles, will likely replace McNeal on the U.S. Olympic team if McNeal’s appeal is denied.
McNeal's situation differs from that of Shelby Houlihan, who was recently banned for four years for violating anti-doping rules. USATF originally said Houlihan would be allowed to race at trials, but the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee stepped in Thursday evening.
In a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports, USOPC chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland said the USOPC, "together with USATF," would adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency Code and any rulings from the Court of Arbitration for Sport "that govern athlete participation in sanctioned events."
Houlihan appealed her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled against her and upheld her ban.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brianna McNeal, second in Olympic trials, could be banned from Tokyo