Saunders, who earned a silver medal in shot put at the Tokyo Olympics, committed three "whereabout failures" within a 12-month period ending on August 15, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, who announced her suspension.
Due to the 18-month ban, Saunders will miss this year's world championships but will be eligible for the Paris Olympics in 2024.
The Olympian addressed the suspension on Wednesday (March 15), saying that she takes "full responsibility" for her actions.
"As a veteran, I definitely should’ve done better and I take full responsibility for my actions. I didn’t fail a test for any substance and was tested again after each of my missed test. I’ve always been an advocate of clean sport. I’ll be back to claim the throne Feb 15th 2024!" Saunders tweeted.
Saunders, who often dons brightly colored hair and a Hulk mask at meets, used her platform at the 2021 Olympics to take a stand for social justice. At the close of the medal presentation, Saunders stepped off the podium and held up an "X" with her arms, which she said represented “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”
The Olympic medalist has been previously open about her mental health and bouts with depression. At last year's U.S. nationals, Saunders finished fourth, coming just shy of qualifying for worlds. After her fourth-place finish, Saunders announced that she was taking a break for the rest of 2022 about a month before her final missed test.
She also missed tests in January and May.