July 25, 2013
By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
The exploits of sprinters Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the London 2012 Summer Olympics helped to ensure that the yellow, green and black flag of the small Caribbean island of a mere 2.8 million flew high and proud, as the Jamaican team ran away with most of the key sprint prizes, including the coveted 4×100 sprint relay.
The Jamaicans had signaled their intention to the world that they would soon control all the important sprint events at international meetings in Beijing four years earlier, but in the past week, a series of doping scandals involving some of its top athletes have cast a long dark shadow over the national development program, which has produced superstars the likes of Bolt and Fraser-Pryce.
Top sprinters Asafa Powell who did not medal in London and Sherone Simpson who picked up a silver medal were both recently busted for allegedly using banned substances following tests of samples supplied to the world athletic body recently. Jamaican first won an Olympic medal way back in 1948.
Both have explained that they were given the ‘medicine’ by trainers and assistants even though they were well aware that the World Anti-Doping Agency has been keeping a special eye out for Jamaican runners given the fact their phenomenal performances across the globe have dwarfed that of traditional rivals, the U.S. to an embarrassing extent.
The incidents, coming on the backs of previous doping scandals involving Blake, Fraser-Pryce and other Jamaicans have not only embarrassed the island’s national program and the cabinet but will also now force critics and Jamaican bashers to question the integrity of some of the super performances team members have displayed at recent world events.
Police in Italy, where Powell has been training and preparing for the 2013 international season, said they raided both his hotel room and that of his Canadian trainer, Chris Xuereb, and carted away suspicious containers of medicines and supplements.
In the meantime, American sprinter Tyson Gay, the second fastest man in the history of short sprinting, was also ousted after testing positive for banned substances and, like the others, faces an extended ban that could effectively end his career and future Olympic chances.
As an indication of the pain, hurt and embarrassment Powell’s positive test has caused, his parents say that no one else on the planet is more flummoxed than they are because they have repeatedly told him to be vigilant and not to eat or drink anything that could harm his career. Both Gay and Powell have withdrawn from meets for the remainder of the season even before they are officially banned.
“Safa is not a fool,” the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper quoted his mother as saying this week. “He tries not to hurt us. I always say to him not to even trust yourself. Don’t take anything from anybody, don’t eat from anyone.
“Somebody must be responsible for giving him that. The person who gave it him must know that it is a banned substance,” a distraught Cislyn Powell said.