Asafa Powell blames physiotherapist for positive drug test
Accused Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell is battling to salvage his career by blaming his positive drug test for the stimulant oxilofrine on a range of new nutritional supplements prescribed to him by a physiotherapist he has only been working with for two months.
In a dramatic twist to the drug scandal that has engulfed the sport, it can be revealed that Powell and Jamaican team-mate Sherone Simpson, who also claims to have been given the same supplements and failed a drug test for the identical substance, contacted the World Anti-Doping Agency and requested a police raid on the hotel where they have been staying with the physio, Canadian former athlete and American footballer Chris Xuereb, in Lignano, northern Italy.
After obtaining the necessary search warrant, Italian police arrived at the hotel on Sunday evening and searched the rooms of Powell, Simpson and Xuereb, before removing all supplements and medicines. Police said around 50 substances had been sent to a laboratory in Italy to test for the presence of performance-enhancing drugs.
Under Wada’s ‘strict liability’ rule, athletes have a responsibility for what they put in their bodies but Powell and Simpson could receive a reduced punishment if they can they show they unwittingly took supplements containing a banned substance.
According to Paul Doyle, the athletes’ United States-based manager, Powell and Simpson were expecting the arrival of the police but kept Xuereb in the dark about it.
“He [Xuereb] was brought in for questioning,” Doyle said. “I got a message from him afterwards, an angry message, saying he was detained for seven hours. He did use the word arrested but I don’t think he truly was arrested.”
Doyle says he has no reason to suspect any “mal-intent” on Xuereb’s part and that, like his athletes, he was probably unaware what the supplements contained. “I think that’s probably the case but, at the same time we couldn’t take any chances so we didn’t want to alert him or anything like that,” he said.
Powell and Simpson, part of Jamaica’s silver-winning 4x100m team at the London Olympics, were revealed to have tested positive on Sunday just hours after American sprinter Tyson Gay confessed to a failed drug test in a separate case.
Gay is still awaiting the results of a second test on a back-up urine sample but suffered the first serious consequence of his positive yesterday when his kit sponsor, Adidas, announced it was suspending its contract with him. A spokesman said: “We are shocked by these allegations.”
Gay, who has recorded the three fastest 100 metres times in the world this year but has withdrawn from next month’s World Championships in Moscow, has refused to provide details about the circumstances of his failed drug test or the name of the substance involved.
But Doyle, who has represented Powell and Simpson for their entire track careers, has chosen to publicly outline his athletes’ defence.
In an interview, Doyle said: “Asafa and Sherone have been working with Wada to arrange this police raid, so to speak. Once we knew of the positive test, we realised that Asafa and Sherone were the only two athletes in the group who had been given new supplements by this phsyio that they are working with.
“Asafa’s had probably 150 to 200 clear tests in the past. He starts working with a new physio who gives him new supplements and all of a sudden he has a positive test in his first test. It’s obvious there’s no other reason why he would have tested positive other than something being in the new supplements he’s been taking. So we immediately asked Wada to get the police there to go in and search everything in the physio’s possession as well as everything in Asafa and Sherone’s possession.”
Doyle hired Xuereb in May to treat Powell for his persistent health issues, which flared up when he injured his hamstring in Australia in March.
According to Doyle, Powell was put on 17 supplements by Xuereb, three of which were administered by injection, though he insists all of them were legal. He added that Simpson had checked online that none of the ingredients was on the banned list, though he admitted that he did not seek independent medical verification.
He also conceded that Powell had flouted the rules of his coach, Stephen Francis, by not declaring to him what supplements he was taking.
Despite declining to go into detail about his case, Gay is also likely to claim that his positive drug test was the result of being given a substance he did not know was banned. He said on Sunday: “I basically put my trust in someone and I was let down.”
In an interview in USA Today, Gay’s long-term coach, Lance Brauman, denied that he was the person who betrayed the sprinter’s trust but would not reveal who Gay had been alluding to. Brauman said: “This person or people that he put his trust into had no affiliation with me or anyone else in my training group.”