Asafa Powell being unfairly portrayed as the face of modern doping

The Point Is

Dr Rachael Irving

Sunday, September 01, 2013

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Asafa Powell has arguably the best sprinting physique of all time and has done more sub-10 seconds over 100 metres than any other athlete.

I have been following the case surrounding his adverse analytical finding with great interest.

I believe that athletes found guilty of deliberate anti-doping rule violations should be sanctioned, and am aware of the eight violation rules associated with Article 2 of the 2009 version of the World Anti-doping Code in effect until 2015.

I, however, feel that Asafa is being unfairly portrayed in the international media as the face of doping. From The Guardian to The Telegraph newspapers in Britain, whenever a doping scandal is mentioned, Asafa's face is shown.

To date, it is his first offence. Further, no evidence is forthcoming that indicates that the former world record holder ingested, rubbed or injected any anabolic steroid, growth hormone, designer gene, metabolic modulator or similar substances or perhaps even used a prohibited method to enhance his performance.

Asafa returned an adverse analytical finding for the stimulant Oxilofrine or methylsynephrine. It is not a very popular stimulant and is abused in less than one per cent of doping cases. Synephrine is allowed in Australian supplements if the total consumed is less than 30mg a day. Synephrine without the methyl is found in sour orange (citrus aurantium).

We could argue that he should get a reduced sanction because it is a stimulant, but his case seemed to have taken many bizarre twists. His hotel room at a training camp in Italy was raided by the Italian police, then someone close to him indicated that he was taking 17 supplements, while another indicated that he was found with Aleve and a five-hour energy drink.

Off-the-counter cold prescriptions often contain banned substances such as pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Energy drinks are notorious for having stimulants such as methylhexamine and fenbutrazate. Athletes are warned to stay away from these substances.

A former legal counsel of the United States Olympic Committee indicated that once a sample from an Olympian comes back with an adverse analytical finding, everything is put in place to prevent unnecessary utterances which might jeopardise a fair trial.

Asafa has been most unfortunate to also have been involved in a media interview that did nothing for him. His case has been reported in the international media as one of the biggest doping cases in history when this is clearly not so.

I really feel this young man is being unfairly portrayed as the face of modern doping.

Tyson Gay is reported to have returned an adverse analytical finding for three separate tests, including a banned steroid, during the US trials for the 14th IAAF World Championships. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is standing by him.

"The additional positive sample is consistent with him taking responsibility," said the USADA chief executive, Travis Tygart. "He should be commended for that and for removing himself from the World Championships, which we all should appreciate. The sample was expected, as he works with us for the fair resolution based on the rules, given the fact of his case."

A first-time offence for doping usually brings a two-year ban, though athletes who co-operate with the USADA sometimes get reduced penalties.

Trinidad and Tobago have not let down their nationals, either. That country's National Association of Athletics Administration (NAAA) had earlier exonerated Ms Semoy Hackett for a doping violation, but the IAAF rescinded that decision and re-suspended Semoy, pending an appeal before the Court of Sports Arbitration (CAS).

Another of that country's national athletes, Kelly-Ann Baptiste, returned an adverse analytical finding and left the World Championships without competing.

The NAAA took the opportunity to reinforce its commitment to a drug-free sport and expressed confidence that the legal process regarding Baptiste and Hackett will follow due diligence.

Like the Trinidadians, let us, as Jamaicans, not be swayed by the international media but allow the legal process to follow due diligence.

— Dr Rachael Irving is a senior research fellow at the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, Mona and a WADA researcher

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