Two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip has accepted a 90-day suspension imposed by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for testing positive for cannabis at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
The suspension was implemented by the sport’s global governing body on July 11 and concludes on October 11. During this period of ineligibility, the multiple Pan American sprint champion is unable to participate in any UCI or TT Cycling Federation-sanctioned events.
However, Phillip's suspension could be reduced to just 30 days if he participates in a rehabilitation course.
Phillip's positive test cost TT two of its three medals at the Lima Games.
TT won gold in the men’s team sprint (Phillip, Nicholas Paul and Keron Bramble) and gold (Paul) and silver (Phillip) in the individual sprint.
Because Phillip was involved in the team sprint performance, Paul and Bramble also had to give up their golds.
This decision by the Olympic Movement of the Americas to have the medals retracted was done on September 10, 2019.
A statement issued by Panam Sports said, Phillip “committed a violation of the anti-doping rules contrary to article 2.1 of the Panam Sports Anti-Doping Rules due to the presence of a prohibited substance in a sample delivered by him, during the Lima 2019 Pan American Games.”
It also highlighted that the prohibited substance found in Phillip’s sample was not considered a performance-enhancing substance and that he “had no intention of cheating or gaining an unfair advantage over his competitors.”
Panam Sports added, “Phillip is an honest athlete who made a mistake and is committed to learning from it.”
At that time, a decision was not taken by any local or international sporting authority to have the cyclist removed from any type of competition. Phillip continued to represent TT and took part in three UCI World Cups in China, New Zealand and Australia in 2019.
Owing to the pandemic, Phillip only recently returned to the international competitive circuit at the Elite Pan American Track Cycling Championships in June. There, he helped the national men’s team sprint, also comprising Bramble and debutant Zion Pulido, to silver.
Phillip, who did not qualify for the Olympics, will now serve his ban.
The multiple national sprint champion confirmed to Newsday that he will not appeal.
“I agreed to the 90 days. It’s been a long process. And after (Elite) Pan Am Championships (in June), I decided to accept the 90 days.
"It (UCI correspondence) also says I can serve a 30-day suspension if I complete a rehabilitation course. I have plans to do the course,” Phillip said via WhatsApp on Tuesday.
If Phillip serves the full 90 days, he will miss out on the UCI Track Cycling Nations Cup in Cali, Colombia (September 9-12). But if the athlete completes the rehabilitation course and meets whatever criteria needed by the UCI, he should be able to represent TT.
Additionally, the Track Cycling World Championships pedals off from October 13-17 at a venue yet to be announced. Phillip is expected to be available to compete there.
Phillip’s three-month suspension was the lowest ineligibility period handed down to cyclists who were sanctioned by UCI. The majority of cyclists on the list were suspended or banned for much longer periods with the closest to Phillip being two years’ suspension, for meldonium.
Looking ahead, Phillip said, “This too shall pass.”
TT Cycling Federation president Rowena Williams was pleased to finally have some closure to the situation. She was also happy that Phillip accepted the decision and has opted to learn from this experience.
“It was long awaited as to what would be the outcome of the deliberations. As unfortunate as the situation is, it’s not one we are happy about but we know that Njisane understands the implications and he has to accept the decisions made by the governing body. We also as the federation have to abide by the ruling and must enforce it as the case may be,” she said.
Williams added that the TTCF has already reached out to the TT Olympic Committee to assist in hosting some educational seminars for elite and junior cyclists to ensure they understand the implications for such actions.
“We have already discussed that and it would happen after the Olympic Games. Hosting a series of educational seminars for our cyclists is integral for us,” she said.