Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser, who ran the third fastest time ever when she won world 400m gold last year, has been provisionally banned after failing to meet ‘whereabouts’ criteria, the Athletics Integrity Unit announced Friday.

The Nigerian-born 22-year-old clocked 48.14 seconds to win the one-lap race at the Doha worlds, placing her third in the all-time list behind Marita Koch (47.60 in 1985) and Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99 in 1983).

Naser’s gold medal-winning performance in Doha made her just the second woman to win a global-level title for Bahrain, following in the footsteps of Ethiopian-born Maryam Yusuf Jamal, who won two world 1,500m titles (2007, 2009) and was upgraded to Olympic gold in the 2012 London Games after the initial winner and runner-up were both banned for biological passport irregularities.

Elite athletes are required to provide the AIU with their whereabouts 90 days in advance so they can be subjected to out-of-competition doping tests.

Under World Athletics’ rules, any combination of three whereabouts failures (filing failure and/or missed test) within a period of 12 months constitutes an anti-doping rule violation, for which the sanction is two years’ ineligibility subject to a reduction to a minimum of one year depending on the athlete’s degree of fault.

The AIU is the independent anti-doping watchdog for track and field, set up in 2017.

Naser switched allegiance to Bahrain in 2014, when she was 16. That year she turned heads at the Youth Olympic Games when she won 400m silver while wearing a hijab and a full bodysuit.

She cuts a different figure now. Naser stunned the world in Doha last year with the third fastest effort of all time – that took many people’s breath away.

Only those over 40 would recall watching the two women who have run faster than her. Theirs was an era when the Cold War was ongoing and the Berlin Wall separated East and West Berlin. Neither Koch nor Kratochvilova failed a doping test but their countries are known to have operated state-sponsored programmes as athletic supremacy was viewed by their rulers as a weapon in the battle between east and west.

Naser, who switched to Bahrain aged 16, played coy as to whether she considered her time in Doha the fastest clean one in history.

“You tell me,” she had replied.

The provisional suspension for Naser is the latest in a series of cases against Bahrain’s elite squad of female runners. Olympic steeplechase champion Ruth Jebet was banned four years in March for EPO, and Olympic marathon runner-up Eunice Kirwa picked up a four-year ban last year, reported PTI adding that Naser could miss next year’s Olympics if the case is proven.

(with AFP inputs)