Five Jamaican sprinters face drugs inquiry

Bolt and Powell in clear but reports cast shadow over London Grand Prix
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The Independent Online

Instead of pointing a finger at British sprinters for being "lazy," as Asafa Powell did on Thursday, it seems that the Jamaican speed merchant should have been making accusations much closer to home.

As the second fastest man of all time got ready to take on the fastest, his Jamaican team-mate Usain Bolt, at Crystal Palace last night, it emerged that five sprinters from the Caribbean island had tested positive for banned substances.

The news was confirmed by the world governing body of track and field, the International Association of Athletics Federations, and one doping official from another organisation, who declined to be named, claimed that neither Bolt nor Powell were among the athletes involved and that the substances detected were "minor drugs" that might warrant public warnings rather than bans.

"None of the world stars are involved," the official said. "The drug is not an anabolic steroid and is considered a minor drug, meaning that with a good explanation at a hearing an athlete could get off with a reprimand."

Nonetheless, the matter was deemed serious enough for Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding to summon officers of the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission and the Jamaican Amateur Athletics Association to an emergency meeting yesterday. And news of the positive tests cast something of a shadow over the opening night of the Aviva London Grand Prix at the sold-out Crystal Palace.

On the track the spotlight was on Bolt beating Powell in the men's 100m, but up in the stands and down at track-side all the talk was of whether the reports were true – which proved to be so – and of exactly which Jamaican sprinters had been caught in the drugs net. Two of the athletes are believed to be from the same training stable as Bolt, the Racers Track Club, run by sprint coach Glen Mills.

"I'm not sure who it is yet," Bolt said after emerging victorious from the 100m final, "but I'm sure it's not me so I'm not really worried. If it's someone from my group I don't know. I can't comment.

"It's sad to know there are still drugs but for me it doesn't really matter. As long as I'm clean, I'm just going forward. It's sad for the sport because the sport was getting on so well. I was trying to bring it back. This is probably a step backwards. People will start questioning everybody, especially from Jamaica. For me, it doesn't matter because I will be going out there, day after day, doing my best. I get tested all the time. It shows that people get tested and they get caught if they are on drugs.

"Sometime you move forward and you take one step back. It's hard, but I'm trying my best to push the sport forward. I think after a while people will notice that you can't get away with it and they'll stop, but for now I guess we can't do anything about it."

Powell, who finished down in sixth in last night's final, said: "It's not for me to worry about, it doesn't affect me one bit. People might be saying bad stuff now but it doesn't really bother me."

It was reported in Jamaica that all five of the athletes – four men and one woman – are members of the national team selected for the World Championships, which open in Berlin a week today. Three of the quintet – two men and the woman – are believed to be in the 4 x 100m relay squads. The other two are understood to be members of the men's 4 x 400m relay squad.

Nick Davies, communications director of the International Association of Athletics Federations, gave confirmation of the positive tests but was unable to shed any light on the identity of the athletes. "The number of athletes is five – four guys and a girl," he said. "We are very early in the process, which is why we can't say who they are, nor what the substances are."