Cheaters Never Prosper: Mo Katir’s Two-Year Suspension From Athletics

San Diego Union-Tribune

Moroccan-born Spanish middle-distance star Mohamed “Mo” Katir had a meteoric rise to running stardom in 2021, perhaps somewhat suspiciously. He began securing Diamond League victories and claiming national records consistently, and was beginning to forward himself as one of the greatest runners of the 21st century. 

Just last year, in early February, Katir set the indoor European record for the 3000-meter race with a sub 7:30 mark. During the outdoor season, he earned a second-place finish in the 5000-meter race at the World Championships in Hungary, which was preceded by a European record Katir set in the same distance with a time of 12:45. These performances, in supplement to others, placed Katir among the likes of Jakob Ingebrigsten, Timothy Cheruiyot, and many other current middle-distance stars. Track and field fans far and wide were excited to see what he would accomplish in 2024, especially with the Paris Olympics on the horizon. 

To the surprise of many, however, Mo Katir will not be chasing any medals or records in 2024, nor in 2025, or part of 2026. 

On Feb. 6, Katir received a two-year ban from athletics for “whereabouts failures” related to drug testing. A whereabouts failure refers to a failure to present oneself at a designated location for drug testing. Katir’s ban will prevent the 26-year-old from participating in the Paris Olympics, which has been on his training calendar since the Tokyo Olympics. Alas, many of Katir’s impressive feats were, in fact, too good to be true. 

Virtually every athletics organization mandates routine substance testing for athletes to ensure they are honest in training and competition. For track and field, this is governed by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU). As per AIU rules, athletes must be available for drug testing for one hour at a time and location of their choice. If they miss three of these scheduled tests, they receive a two-year suspension from athletics. As it turns out, Katir failed to be present at the time and place he specified three times in 2023, resulting in his current competition ban. 

The first time Katir missed a test, he claimed he needed to travel to Lisbon, Portugal for a health emergency affecting his fiance, despite the fact he had arranged for the test to be in the morning at his house in Spain. The AIU often gives athletes the benefit of the doubt regarding whereabouts failures, however, they were less likely to believe Katir when they found out he purchased his ticket two days before he claimed the emergency began. At this point, Katir had one strike on his record. 

The next two whereabouts failures came as a result of glitches in the test-scheduling system Katir claimed. However, it was eventually discovered that again, Katir was attempting to manipulate and outsmart the members of the AIU. This led to the Spanish track star amassing three whereabouts failures, rendering him suspended from competition until Feb. 6, 2026. 

It is no secret that world-class athletes will take whatever measures necessary to optimize their performance. Most often, this involves long hours of training, strict adherence to fuel and recovery regimens, and deliberation over strategy for the big event. There is one line, however, that athletes seldom cross: using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), otherwise known as doping, to gain a competitive advantage. After all, there are several safeguards in place, such as the AIU, to ensure athletes are upfront about their training and abide by predetermined regulations. 

While we cannot be certain that Mo Katir has implemented illegal supplements and techniques over the past year, the evidence is, admittedly, rather damning. This is especially true because Katir did not contest any of the whereabouts marks nor the ban itself. Regardless, honest athletes can find solace in the fact that one less potential PED-user will be at the Paris Olympics, and feel assured that the AIU will continue to work to balance the scales of justice. 

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