Why Jamaica must come clean

As it turns out, Jamaica's athletes, who won eight sprint gold medals at the London Olympics, were not subjected to adequate out-of-competition tests for banned drugs before the Games. These claims by Renee Anne Shirley the former executive director of Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission put a question mark on the island nation's overwhelming track domination.

But is it fair to doubt the graceful sprinters since every Olympic medalist, or anybody who gets on podium at an international meet, gets tested and none of the Jamaican champions have been stripped of their medals?

Sadly, the answer to the question is "yes". That's because, in modern sport, not failing a post-race dope test doesn't give an athlete an 'all clean' certificate. Ben Johnson at Seoul '88 was the last megastar who flunked the big test. Times have changed, the cheats have become wiser and doping methods have turned smarter. These days a majority of athletes get caught in the dope net while at training camps months before big events.

Athletes follow a well-planned dope chart, in consultation with a specialist, in the countdown to major events like the Olympics. While doing so they account for the time it takes to wash out the banned substances.

The curious case of Darya Pishchalnikova, Russia's silver medallist in the women's discus throw at the London Games, explains this. Pishchalnikova passed the post-event test after her effort. But the Russian was stripped of her medal after an advanced re-test of samples taken before the Olympics showed a positive result. American sprinter Tyson Gay, who has clocked the joint second-fastest time in the 100m, also failed an out-of-competition test.

A year after the London Games, evidence has tumbled out that Jamaican athletes are not squeaky clean. Asafa Powell, the last man to hold the World record before Bolt, tested positive for a banned stimulant at the Jamaican national trials prior to the 2013 World Championships.

A disciplinary panel will look into whether the adverse result was because Powell inadvertently took the banned stimulant or whether it was a result of a systematic doping programme gone wrong. But WADA's admission that it was kept in the dark about the lack of out-of-competition testing of Jamaican athletes raises the question as to how many of their eight gold at London were well and truly clean.

(Nihal is a senior assistant editor based in New Delhi)


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