International officials last night tried to look on the bright side of the latest doping scandals to jolt track and field.
The positive tests that exposed top sprinters Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson are disappointing but also proof that global drug-testing efforts are working, the IOC and IAAF said.
The cases, which came to light on Sunday afternoon, come less than a month before the World Championships in Moscow and cast another drug shadow over what is considered the marquee sport of the Olympics. “I am naturally disappointed, and I would like to reiterate our zero-tolerance policy against doping,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement. “Clearly, the fight against doping can never be totally won, but these cases do once again show the effectiveness of the strong, sophisticated and continually evolving battle against doping in sport being waged by the International Olympic Committee and its partners in the Olympic Movement.”
Gay, the American record holder in the 100 metres and the fastest man at the distance this year, said he tested positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition doping control on 16 May. He hasn’t identified the substance and is awaiting the testing of his backup B-sample.
Powell, the former world record holder in the 100m and second-fastest man this year, tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrine at Jamaica’s national championships last month. Jamaican team-mate Simpson, a three-time Olympic medalist, tested positive for the same stimulant.
Yesterday, Adidas suspended its sponsorship of Gay. The company invoked a clause in Gay’s contract relating to doping. “We are shocked by these recent allegations, and even if we presume his innocence until proven otherwise, our contract with Tyson is currently suspended,” Adidas said in a statement.
Also yesterday, Italian police confiscated unidentified substances in a raid on the hotel where Powell and Simpson were staying. Rooms of the athletes and physical trainer Christopher Xuereb of Canada were searched and drugs and supplements were seized, said Udine police captain Antonio Pisapia. He said it was unclear if the substances were illegal, and that they were now being analysed.
In another development last night Olympic discus thrower Allison Randall – who competed but failed to make the final in London – became the fourth athlete to confirm a positive drugs test.
The doping positives come a month after another Jamaican Olympic champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown, tested positive for a banned diuretic.
In recent years, the IOC and International Association of Athletics Federations have focused on increased out-of-competition testing and storage of samples for retesting and retroactive sanctions. The IAAF and some other sports now use the blood passport system, which monitors an athlete’s biological profile over time for signs of cheating. “While not perfect, the methods are ever improving, with blood passports and the ability to test athletes 24/7 in and out of competition proving to be effective in catching cheats and acting as deterrents,” Rogge said. “We also keep samples for eight years now so that improvements in testing can catch cheats long after the games are over.”
The IAAF, which carries out more tests than any international federation, also sought to emphasise the positive from the latest body blow to the sport. “The IAAF’s commitment to anti-doping in athletics is unwavering because we have an ethical obligation to the majority of athletes who believe in clean sport,” spokesman Nick Davies said.
The spate of high-profile drug cases has again focused attention on the issue of doping sanctions. A two-year ban is the standard penalty for a first serious offence, though the punishment can be lighter for stimulants and in cases where athletes can prove there was no intention to enhance performance.
Under the proposed new World Anti-Doping Code, the standard penalty will be doubled to four years, still short of the automatic lifetime ban espoused by some officials.
Best 100 metres times of year so far
1) Tyson Gay (US) 9.75 sec Des Moines 21 June
2) Gay 9.79 Lausanne 4 July
3) Gay 9.86 Kingston 4 May
4) Nesta Carter (Jamaica) 9.87 13 July
5) Asafa Powell (Jamaica) 9.88 Lausanne 4 July
6) Justin Gatlin (US) 9.89 Des Moines 21 July
7=) Gatlin 9.91 Beijing 21 May and James Dasaolu (GB) 9.91 Birmingham 13 July
9=) Gatlin 9.94 Rome 6 June and Usain Bolt (Jamaica) 9.94 Kingston 21 June