Today’s banning of ace Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell and that earlier of Olympic medallist Sherone Simpson may give sceptics of regional track and field more ammunition, but it isn’t enough to cause a serious blemish to athletics in the Caribbean.
Furthermore, vice-president of the North American and Central American region of the International Association of Athletics Federation, Noel Lynch, in an interview with Barbados TODAY, said that he would be more worried if those athletes banned were top honchos like Olympic champions Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Kirani James or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Powell has received an 18-month ban for failing a drugs test. The Jamaican sprinter, 31, took the banned stimulant oxilofrine at last year’s national championships but the suspension has been backdated and will end on 20 December, 2014. On Tuesday, Simpson was also banned by the Jamaican anti-doping disciplinary panel.
Powell plans to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Simpson, an Olympic 4x100m relay gold and silver medallist, is a training partner of Powell and took the same substance at the same event. Another Jamaican, Olympic discus thrower Allison Randall, was also handed a two-year ban on Tuesday for using a prohibited diuretic.
Powell and Simpson provided their samples on 21 June, 2013. The three-member disciplinary panel that ruled on Powell said he had been “negligent”. Powell, the biggest name in Jamaican sprinting before the rise of double world and Olympic champion Usain Bolt, missed last year’s World Championships as a result of his failed test. In January, he testified that Canadian physical trainer Chris Xuereb provided him with nine supplements, including Epiphany D1.
Lynch told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that as far as he was concerned for the longest time people had been after the Jamaicans because they were able to “beat the odds”. He added that with athletes every day around the world testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, Powell’s positive test for stimulants would not impact on the future development of the sport in the Caribbean generally.
“The ban on Asafa and I think Sherone Simpson in itself will be a blemish on Jamaica as a world power in athletics and by extension the region. But as far as I am concerned they were banned for stimulants. I don’t think that it is something so serious that we can’t recover from it. I don’t think it is going to cause a major downside to our track and field development at all. I think it is just one of those things that happens. They are going to suffer the consequences and that is it. But I don’t think it is going to be a major blemish. I think that people are more concerned about performance enhancing drugs at the level of increasing your corpulence and strength,” he said.
Lynch, who is also the second vice-president of the Athletics Association of Barbados, noted that the issue of stimulants though an important and very serious one, did not carry the same weight as if somebody had been caught with an anabolic steroid.
“In everything they will be good and bad, in everything they are going to be people who are going to flaunt the rules in some way. I am not absolving them of any blame, I am not saying what they did was correct. I think even their own negligence could have caused them to be in that position,” Lynch said as he urged athletes to take responsibility for their own bodies.
As chair for the strategic planning commission of NACAC, Lynch said that they were very concerned with the number of athletes putting all their trust in trainers and coaches and giving them full rein of their bodies. It was for this reason he said that the commission was actively seeking to strengthen the issue of educating sports persons so as to make them more knowledgeable about their responsibility as it related to doping or the concept of potential doping.
“If I have confidence in a coach or a trainer and I am literally allowing him to do as he likes with me, believing he can make me into a superstar, but I should not let down my guard. Every day we are out there trying to ensure that our athletes are knowledgeable about what they are doing,” Lynch added.
Today veteran Kittitian sprinter and fellow Olympian Kim Collins said it was wrong for Powell to blame his coaches for his positive test and advised him to “man up” and take responsibility for his predicament.
Collins said athletes who cheat should follow the example of British sprinter Dwain Chambers, who admitted he was to blame after testing positive for the designer drug tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) in August 2003, for which he received a two-year ban.
“Whenever these tests come out, people have some really strange excuses. Very few people man up, and I think that’s why Dwain ended up in so much trouble – for saying the truth.
“In track and field, when it comes to cheating, you do not tell the truth. You lie, lie, lie. And everybody says, ‘Oh, he really didn’t do it’. Come on, we all know. Man up. Man up. Man up. When I’m out there losing to you, or anyone else is losing to you, man up. If you’re a woman, the same thing applies: man up.
“It’s one of the ways you can go right, where you say, ‘Okay, I made this mistake. This was why I felt I needed to do it, but I’m telling you that it’s not worth it. This is what I had, and this is all that I lost’.”
Collins was involved in a drug controversy after winning the Commonwealth Games 100m title in Manchester in 2002, when he tested positive for salbutamol. However, he was allowed to keep his title as the substance was contained in medication he was using to treat asthma. Collins said in a 2004 interview that he would be tempted to take performance-enhancing drugs to remain at the top of his sport.
But he argues now that any athlete succumbing to that temptation would be cheating young fans as well as the sport.
“I think about the kids who look up to a lot of us, and they want to be like us. They think we are great. And it breaks their hearts when they find out that you’re not really who you say you are, based on what is going on. I would say to any athlete who is cheating, ‘Don’t go to any kids, or to any school, and tell them to stay in school and say no to drugs if you’re high while doing it’. That’s not cool.”