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Monday 20 January 2020

Anti-doping body in Jamacia 'has never done blood testing'

Asafa Powell of Jamaica
Asafa Powell of Jamaica

Athletics Simon Hart

The former head of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission claims the organisation has never conducted a blood test and is so short-staffed that it risks botching its prosecutions of accused athletes Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson when they face drug hearings in three months' time.

Renee Anne Shirley, who was Jadco's executive director from July 2012 until February this year, has already prompted an investigation into Jamaica's anti-doping programme by the World Anti-Doping Agency following her revelation in a magazine article that Jadco carried out just one out-of-competition drug test in the five months leading up to the London Olympics.

In response to her allegation, Wada revealed on Monday that it would be visiting the Caribbean island in January to carry out an "extraordinary audit" of Jadco's activities.

Now Shirley has added to her criticisms of Jamaica's anti-doping measures by claiming that blood-testing kits that were delivered during her tenure at Jadco have never been used.

Instead, she says Jamaican athletes are subject only to urine tests by Jadco, even though blood-testing is the only way to detect the presence of human growth hormone – a substance that could be of particular advantage to sprinters.

"Why have they not started doing blood tests and looking for things like HGH?" Shirley said. "I know that 30 kits were bought and I left them there.

"To the best of my knowledge, eight months later I don't know if Jamaica has started doing blood tests. When you look at the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) statistics, I think they said they did nine blood tests last year on Jamaican athletes, so it's not a lot of blood-testing."

Shirley's comments are unlikely to endear her to many of her compatriots, who have accused her of trying to tarnish Jamaica's reputation by going public with her accusations.

Herb Elliot, the Jadco chairman, has previously questioned the accuracy of her claims and described her as "demented" and "a Judas". He was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But Shirley says she is undaunted by the personal attacks, insisting they are "washing off my back", and is refusing to back down.

In addition to its drug-testing deficiencies, she says Jadco is so short-staffed that it is ill-equipped to mount effective prosecutions of athletes charged with drug violations.

On Tuesday, Olympic taekwondo player Kenneth Edwards became the eighth Jamaican athlete to test positive this year when he failed a drug test for a banned diuretic.

Jamaican international footballer Jermaine Hue was banned for nine months last month for testing positive for a steroid, while Powell and Simpson, who deny knowingly taking any stimulants, and three-time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown were among six track and field athletes who failed tests.

OVERWHELMED

Shirley said that with so many hearings stacking up – Powell and Simpson will answer charges that they took a banned stimulant in January, while three other field athletes will have hearings in December – she feared that Jadco could be overwhelmed by the caseload.

She said: "We have a number of doping positives which are going to need to be managed because Jadco has to manage the results process and put the cases together to go to the hearings. My concern is that the staff is not in place to do this job and nobody is addressing this issue.

"In Jamaica, we can't afford for people to get off on a technicality because there was some breach in the processing of the paperwork."

She added: "The Asafa Powell situation is also compounded by the criminal investigation that was going on in Italy. It's going to have to be rigorously handled. On the legal side, Jadco has to present a case and it needs to stand scrutiny in the eyes of the world because everybody's going to be watching." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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