A&T sprinter Ross suspended from world championships

Drug testing officials couldn’t locate the Olympic gold medalist for a surprise test

Randolph Ross, the back-to-back NCAA champion with North Carolina A&T, was booted from world championships about a month after officials could not locate him for an anti-doping test. (Martin Meissner / AP Photo)

Randolph Ross will not get the chance to add to his trophy case at this year’s world track and field championships.

The day before he was scheduled to run his preliminary race in the 400, Ross was informed by the Athletics Integrity Unit that he was suspended for “tampering with the antidoping process.” That doesn’t mean that Ross tested positive. The provisional suspension, which forced him to miss Sunday’s race, was because officials could not locate him for a surprise drug test on June 18.

As part of competing at the highest level, athletes are required to be available at all times for drug testing without notice. They must provide the Athletics Integrity Unit with a detailed itinerary of their locations so they are always available for testers.

Usually, it requires multiple missed attempts before an anti-doping violation is assessed. The AIU didn’t release any details about attempts to reach Ross. Instead, the statement issued by the organization read, “the allegation arises out of the athlete’s conduct during the course of an investigation into a potential whereabouts violation.”

Ross was reportedly interviewed when he arrived in Eugene, Oregon, for the championships on Thursday, but his answers apparently did not sway the officials.

The setback prevented the NC A&T runner from adding to what was fast becoming an impressive racing resume. Ross has won back-to-back NCAA championships in the 400 meters. In 2021, he turned in the fastest time in the world, second-fastest ever at an NCAA championship and third-fastest in college history to become the Aggies’ first NCAA champion in an outdoor event. He also led A&T to an NCAA title in the 4×400 relay.

He swept the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships in the 400 meters this year, becoming the first runner to repeat as outdoor champion in the 400 in 11 years.

Ross also has an Olympic gold medal as part of the 4×400 meter relay champions in Tokyo last year. Ross ran for the U.S. team in the first heat as it finished in first place and qualified for the finals. Even though Ross didn’t run in the medal race, all participating members of the team’s heats were awarded medals. He also competed in the individual 400 meters in Tokyo.

Ross followed in the footsteps of his father, Duane Ross, who represented the United States at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The elder Ross also won an NCAA title, in the 110-meter hurdles in 1995 as a member of Clemson’s track and field team.

Unfortunately, the Ross family tradition includes run-ins with drug testing. While competing in track and field as an athlete, Duane served a two-year suspension as part of the BALCO scandal, where hundreds of athletes in the sport were tied to performance-enhancing drugs.

Duane Ross went on to become one of the top coaches in college track and field. For the last 11 years, he’s coached at NC A&T.

Ross coached the Aggies to nine top-25 outdoor finishes in the NCAAs during his time with the Aggies. He coached nine NCAA individual champions at A&T and another three at Methodist before taking the Aggies’ job.

Ross has coached a total of 142 All-Americans, 103 at A&T. His son Randolph is responsible for five of them, while his daughter Jonah — who just finished her sophomore season with the Aggies — has one.

“We are an HBCU. We will always be an HBCU,” Duane Ross said following the Aggies’ NCAA performance. “That is who we are, that is our history and we’re proud of that. But that acronym needs to be retired if people are going to continue to misuse it. It’s almost like they are saying you guys are good for an HBCU. No, we’re good, period. I think some of our competition is still struggling with the fact that we are better. I know a lot of people are surprised about what we did, but they shouldn’t be.”

Ross’ achievements with the Aggies also include coaching two gold medalists. In addition to his son, A&T’s Trevor Stewart was on the 4×400 relay team in Tokyo.

“The rest of the country wants to overlook our program all year long, but then here we are with two of the best 400-meter runners in the world here on the relay,” coach Ross said at the time.

The Ross era at NC A&T ended following the 2022 outdoor season, however. Coach Duane Ross left to take over the program at Tennessee. At the time of his hiring, he was asked if his children would follow him to Knoxville. He pointed out that Randolph “is in orange (Tennessee’s school color) today, if that says anything.”

A short time later, Randolph and Jonah made it official.

“It was hard leaving what we built for a decade,” Randolph told the Team USA website. “The decision to change schools was my dad’s to make, and my sister and I were going to support him, regardless.”

Ross’ transfer could be complicated if the provisional suspension isn’t resolved quickly.