The showpiece event of the track and field year in Britain finished yesterday afternoon just as it had started the previous evening: with Jamaican sprinters at the centre of controversy about alleged breaking of the athletics rule book.
The Aviva London Grand Prix had opened for business at the grand old home of British athletics with confirmation that five sprinters from the Caribbean island had tested positive for banned substances. It drew to a conclusion yesterday with one of the two Jamaican athletes identified as having registered positive tests, though yet to be officially confirmed, being the subject of a disqualification and subsequent reinstatement in the final event on the programme, the men's 4x100m relay. Alan Ayckbourn, the British master of farce, could hardly have penned a better script.
Yohan Blake, a training partner and close friend of Usain Bolt, the big box office attraction responsible for drawing capacity 16,000 crowds to both days of the meeting, was ultimately cleared of the offence of having begun his second-stage run for the Racers Track Club from outside the designated changeover box.
After examining footage of the race, the meeting referee decided to reverse an initial disqualification and reinstate the winning quartet: Antiguan Daniel Bailey and Jamaicans Blake (right), Mario Forsythe and Bolt – all members of the training group coached in Jamaica by sprint guru Glen Mills. Which leaves Blake with the small matter of the doping laws to contend with.
The identities of the five athletes who registered the positive tests at the Jamaican Championships last month have yet to be formally announced but impeccable sources have confirmed that Blake is one of them. The 19-year-old left the Crystal Palace track yesterday refusing to respond to the allegation. "I've got to go," he said. On Friday night, after running in the heats of the 100m, he had been less reluctant to speak. "I'm clean," he insisted.
The Jamaican Amateur Athletics Association had said on Friday that they would be notifying the athletes of the test results overnight British time. Blake finished runner-up to Bolt – the star of the Beijing Olympics last summer with his triple gold medal-winning, triple world record-breaking feats – in the 100m final on Friday and stands fifth in the world rankings in the 100m this year, with a time of 9.93sec.
Sheri-Ann Brooks, the reigning Commonwealth 100m champion, was yesterday identified as another of the five athletes, her manager Chris Mychasiw confirming she had been informed of a positive test result and would be returning from the European track circuit to Jamaica, where Prime Minister Bruce Golding has called for an inquiry into the affair.
Reliable sources maintain that neither of the two fastest men of all time, Bolt and Asafa Powell, have been entangled in the drugs net. It also appears that the offending substance detected in the drugs test samples is not an anabolic steroid but a "minor stimulant", understood to be a decongestant contained in a nasal spray. "I can assure you it wasn't any major stuff," Dr Herb Elliott, a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said yesterday.
On Friday night, after emerging victorious from the 100m final, Bolt had spoken of the breaking news being "a backward step" for track and field globally and for the sport in his homeland. Yesterday he was reluctant to add any further comment. "I don't know what's happening," he insisted. "All I know is we have to wait for the result of the second test." Only when the back-up "B" samples are analysed is the full list of the athletes involved likely to be formally revealed.
All of which leaves Jamaican athletics under a lingering cloud as their star sprinter prepares to move on to the World Championships in Berlin. Not that you would have noticed as the Palace crowd mobbed Bolt. If anything, the Lightning Bolt was more impressive in his team race yesterday than he had been in his individual event the previous night.
Tearing up the home straight on the anchor leg, he led his club mates to their eventually confirmed victory in a stunning 37.64sec, the fourth fastest time in history in the 4x100m relay.
The next scheduled race for Bolt is in the heats of the 100m on the opening morning of the World Championships, a fortnight on Saturday. With that in mind, he doubtless had an eye on the form of the reigning world 100m and 200m champion yesterday. Tyson Gay tops the world rankings at both distances this summer but his preparations for Berlin have been hampered by a groin problem. The American looked trouble-free in winning the 200m in 20.00sec but was hobbling in a painful state afterwards. Asked whether Bolt would be unwise to take any encouragement, Gay nodded in agreement. "Right now I'm running on faith and that's more dangerous than anything," he said.
It remains to be seen whether any of the British athletes who shone yesterday will be dangerous on the medal front in Berlin but the US-based Michael Bingham looked mightily impressive in winning the 400m as he claimed the scalp of double Olympic 400m hurdles champion Angelo Taylor, clocking a lifetime best of 45.03sec in the process.Reuse content