Fraser is no drugs cheat, says Powell

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The Independent Online

If Asafa Powell bore the weary look of someone who had been this particular way before as he rolled up at the International Stadium in Gateshead yesterday, it was hardly surprising.

It was not so much that the Jamaican speed merchant, in town for a head-to head with Tyson Gay in the Aviva British Grand Prix Diamond League meeting this afternoon, had been to the Tyneside track before; back in June 2006 he equalled his own old world 100m record there, clocking 9.77sec. It was more that he had woken yesterday to the news that his Jamaican team-mate and training partner Shelly-Ann Fraser had failed a drugs test.

The last time Powell competed on British soil, in the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace in July last year, news broke that five Jamaican sprinters had been caught by drugs testers. On that occasion, the fuss proved to be a storm in a cough medicine bottle.

The offending substance, Methylxanthine, was a minor stimulant contained in over-the-counter cough medicine and the five athletes (Marvin Anderson, Yohan Blake, Allodin Fothergill, Lancford Spence and Sheri-Ann Brooks) all received minor suspensions of three months. This time round, the deja vu scenario is likely to conclude with a similarly light punishment for Fraser, the 23-year-old world and Olympic 100m champion.

She had been due to join Powell in Gateshead but was withdrawn from the field for the women's 100m after it emerged in the wake of her non-appearance in the Lausanne meeting on Thursday that she had tested positive for the banned substance Oxycodon. Fraser has been suspended pending a hearing but the substance is listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency list as a narcotic – not a performance enhancer – and she could escape with a short suspension or even a public warning.

"I have heard it's nothing serious," Powell said. "It's sad that it's happening to someone in my camp but Shelly did not cheat. She took some painkillers. I think if it's not something that makes you perform well – if it's something that makes you perform worse – it shouldn't be on the banned list."

Fraser blamed the positive test on painkillers she had taken when suffering from toothache before a below-par performance at the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai in May. "I have nothing to hide," she said. "But I am upset because everybody is starting to assume I am taking drugs. My reputation is somewhat ruined."

Ben Johnson's reputation was ruined long ago but the Canadian who failed three drugs tests in the course of his tarnished sprinting career did his old sport few favours by claiming in a BBC Radio Five Live interview on Thursday night that track and field was "all corrupted." It brought a despairing scowl from Gay on the eve of the American's 100m encounter with Powell on Tyneside.

"Him saying 'I have no faith,' or whatever, that's all irrelevant in my eyes," Gay said. "Just because he used performance-enhancing drugs to accomplish what he did doesn't mean everyone else has to."

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