Jamaica, home of Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest human, has been plunged into a major drugs scandal after two of its top female athletes failed dope tests.
It was revealed yesterday that the world 200m champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown, has tested positive for a banned diuretic. Two days earlier the 400m runner Dominique Blake lost her appeal against a six-year ban for a second doping offence.
The shock development came in the wake of double Olympic champion Bolt’s stunning return to form in Oslo, where he recorded the fastest 200m time in the world this year.
In 2009 five Jamaican athletes were banned for drugs offences, among them Bolt’s rival and training partner Yohan Blake, the current world 100m champion, who was given a three-month suspension for testing positive for a substance he claimed was not on the banned list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).
Now the Caribbean island which has dominated world sprinting in recent years faces an unprecedented crisis in the sport.
Campbell-Brown, 31, is one of its biggest sporting heroines, bracketed with Bolt and Asafa Powell in superstar status. She is only the second woman to have won consecutive 200m Olympic gold medals and was a silver medallist at London 2012, where a total of 11 Jamaican female sprinters won medals in the 100m and 200m and the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays.
VCB, as she is known, has won a total of seven Olympic medals. A sample she gave at the Jamaica Invitational meet on 4 May tested positive for a diuretic which can act as a masking agent for performance-enhancing substances, and yesterday local media reported that the B sample result was confirmed.
The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) are expected to rule on the tests early this week.
Blake tested positive last year for methylhexaneamine, a stimulant that is commonly used as a nasal decongestant, and is banned in competition.
The Jamaica Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel (Jadco) banned Blake during Jamaica’s Olympic trials last June, when she finished sixth in the 400m.
She was previously banned for nine months after ephedrine was found in her system in 2006. She had been in the women’s 4 x 400 relay squad at the London Olympics but did not compete for Jamaica, which took a bronze medal.
Another Jamaican athlete, the 800m runner Ricardo Cunningham, who tested positive for the prohibited substance pseudoephedrine, also at last year’s Olympic trials, escaped with only a reprimand.
After the five athletes were banned in 2011 following a meeting in the Bahamas, head coach David Riley claimed the nation was being unfairly targeted because of the outstanding performances of Bolt and others.
“The continuous drugs testing of our athletes is very unfortunate,” he said. “They are free to choose who they want to select [to test], but the whole thing did not look to be random, because our athletes were targeted.
“We are not afraid of drug-testing because we do drug-testing in Jamaica and the process is to find dishonest individuals. But we should do so randomly and not target a country or certain individuals.”
The Jamaican government recently substantially increased the budget for drug-testing conducted by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission in and out of competition, and for public-education programmes. Wada who in the past have expressed concern about the performances of Kenyan athletes, have so far given no indication that Jamaica as a country is being targeted. But after the latest revelations there is no doubt that the heat will be turned up on the island in the sun.
Veronica Campbell-Brown used to train with Steve Mullings. The Jamaican sprinter tested positive for excessive testosterone in 2004 and for a masking agent in 2011. He was given a lifetime ban that was upheld in March this year.