Athlone IT defends invitation to sprinter Asafa Powell
ATHLONE Institute of Technology has defended its decision to bring Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell in for its big international indoor Grand Prix next Wednesday.
Former world record holder Powell is a three-time Olympic 100m finalist and a two-time gold medallist in the 4x400m relay, but he tested positive for a banned stimulant (Oxilofrine) in June 2013.
He initially got an 18-month ban but that was cut to six months by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and his suspension finished in December 2013.
Powell always maintained his innocence and CAS ruled that he unwittingly took the banned substance in a contaminated supplement called Epiphany D1, given to him by his then physical therapist.
But the fact that Prof Ciaran O Cathain, who is president of Athlone IT, is also president of Athletics Ireland, has raised questions about the optics of inviting Powell (32) to make his Irish debut at this time.
"Responsibility for extending invitations rests solely with Athlone Institute of Technology, and it was in his capacity as president of the institute that Prof Ó Catháin acted," the college said yesterday.
A statement added that "AIT in no way condones taking drugs in sport" but pointed out the details of Powell's case and that he is now perfectly free to compete.
O Cathain was the driving force behind AIT's €10m stadium and this is its second year to host a world-class indoor meeting, which looks set to sell-out again.
Quatar's high jump sensation Mutaz Essa Barshim (23) and American sprinter Carmelita Jeter are the other two marquee names this year.
Barshim, the Olympic bronze medallist and world indoor champion, helped make high jump compulsive viewing in 2014 when he and Russia's Bohdan Bondarenko both cleared 2:42, just 3cm off Javier Sotomayor's world record.
Jeter (35) won 100m silver, 200m bronze and relay gold in London 2012; she became the second fastest woman in history in 2009 when she ran 10.64 (+1.2 wind). Only Florence Griffith-Joyner's 10.49 in 1988 is faster.
Wednesday's field includes lots more high-class talent, including Barshim's brother Muamer (a 2.28m jumper), Jamacian sprinter Dwight Thomas, Sharika Nelvis, Manteo Mitchell and Britain's Nigel Levine in a top-class 400m and Irish Olympian Ciaran O'Lionaird in the mile.