Dope cloud hangs over Jamaicahttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/dope-cloud-hangs-over-jamaica/

Dope cloud hangs over Jamaica

WADA to probe claims that athletes from Island nation were not tested enough ahead of London Olympics

The world’s anti-doping authority is launching an “extraordinary’’ audit of Jamaica’s drug-testing agency following allegations that its policing of the island’s sprinting superstars led by Usain Bolt all but collapsed in the months before they dazzled at the London Games. WADA’s probe follows data the former executive director of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission revealed to the Caribbean’s oldest newspaper indicating a near complete breakdown in JADCO’s out-of-competition testing from January 2012 to the July opening of the Olympics.

JADCO chairman Herbert Elliott dismissed Renee Anne Shirley’s figures as lies and described her as “a bit demented’’ and “a Judas.’’ But WADA confirmed to the AP that there was,as Shirley asserted,“a significant gap of no testing’’ by JADCO as athletes trained in the months ahead of the Games — and that it is concerned enough to investigate.

International Olympic Committee medical chiefs,WADA and Britain’s anti-doping agency revealed that they were kept in the dark about the Jamaican testing lapses that Shirley exposed in her August letter to The Gleaner.

“There was a period of — and forgive me if I don’t have the number of months right — but maybe five to six months during the beginning part of 2012 where there was no effective operation,’’ WADA Director General David Howman said. “No testing. There might have been one or two,but there was no testing. So we were worried about it,obviously.’’

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Jamaican stars didn’t go completely untested into the Games. The IAAF,says it extensively tested Jamaicans and that Bolt was tested more than 12 times last year. In London,Jamaica won 8 of 12 individual sprint medals.

It isn’t possible to judge with any certainty whether the gaps in Jamaica’s testing might have opened a door to cheating,particularly because other agencies involved refuse to give a complete picture of exactly how many tests they conducted on the Jamaicans in 2012.

The Shirley revelations,however,have been alarming enough to prompt action: While WADA has audited Jamaica’s testing regime in the past,Howman said its new trip is in direct response to the problems Shirley exposed and the positive doping tests this year of five athletes who competed for Jamaica in London. “Jamaica is “a high priority … they’re on our radar.’’

WADA is unhappy that Jamaica hasn’t agreed to a swift inspection. Elliott said JADCO couldn’t accommodate the auditors at the date WADA wanted and now isn’t expecting the visit before the end of the year. “It doesn’t over-impress us. If there’s going to be that sort of delay,you need to have a better reason,’’ Howman added.

WHO KNEW?

Shirley says JADCO conducted 96 tests in competition in 2012 before the Olympics,all in May and June at an invitational meet and the national trials. But away from the competitive events,there was no Jamaican testing for five of the seven months before the opening of the Games,Shirley asserted.

To catch and deter cheats,a combination of in-and out-of-competition testing is vital. But after 10 tests in February and a solitary test in April,JADCO’s out-of-competition program stopped,according to Shirley’s figures. Shirley later gave the same figures to Sports Illustrated,where they generated more worldwide attention than her letter to The Gleaner.

“It irritated me as a Jamaican: one test out of competition,for what,five months or four months?’’ Shirley said in a telephone interview. “Given that it was an Olympic year,I felt that more could have been done.’’

Howman said that even WADA learned only after the Games — from Shirley — of the agency’s testing voids. He added that although JADCO was under no obligation to inform anyone earlier,“you’d expect it”. “We didn’t know,’’ he said. “We had no knowledge of anything that was down there until we heard from her.’’

WHAT DOES JADCO SAY?

Elliott,the JADCO chairman,bristles at mention of Shirley’s name: “Ms. Shirley has done this country and herself a great deal of harm by saying things that are not totally in keeping with the truth,’’ he said in a phone interview. JADCO’s and Shirley’s overall testing figures for 2012 actually agree. Both say JADCO did a total of 179 tests — 108 in competition and 71 out of competition. But Shirley gave month-by-month figures. JADCO didn’t.

Shirley’s detailed breakdown showed the bulk of out-of-competition tests — 60 of the 71 — were done only after the London Games,after she took over at JADCO in July of 2012.

Elliott confirmed that “there was no money in the coffers’’ when he was named JADCO’s chairman in February 2012. Also hampering the work was that 400 of its testing kits were out of date and therefore unusable. He said JADCO borrowed kits from other Caribbean nations and from “people in Florida who we know.’’

The main obstacle he cited to out-of-competition testing was that “most of our athletes were off the island. We had them overseas preparing for the Olympics. Therefore we asked IAAF … to test them overseas out of competition. All right? And they did,’’ he said. He also said: “We’ve done tests WADA doesn’t know about.’’ He didn’t provide details.

DID OTHER AGENCIES TEST?

Absolutely. The IAAF’s out-of-competition testing program for Jamaica concentrated on athletes’ training camps and “was robust and comprehensive,’’ spokesman Chris Turner said by email. Elliott claimed testers descended “in droves every day’’ on Jamaica’s pre-Olympic track-and-field camp in Birmingham,England,in the weeks immediately before the games.

Shirley also acknowledges that other agencies policed the Jamaicans. “I’m pretty sure that all of the athletes who went to London were tested at least once and the majority of them more than once,’’ she said. But the IOC refuses to give specific testing numbers for the Jamaicans. Bolt and Simms say they don’t tally up his tests. “I don’t even know where we’d go to find that information,’’ said Simms.

Fraser-Pryce said she was tested “more than 18’’ times this year. She offered to let the AP see the receipts that she,like all tested athletes,gets when giving samples. But her manager,Adrian Laidlaw,then point-blank refused.

WHAT NEXT?

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After Shirley exposed JADCO’s shortcomings,Howman wrote to the Jamaican government asking for an explanation. He says he got long replies and an invitation to send experts. The team will check whether JADCO remains compliant with WADA’s code of anti-doping rules,as well as who the agency is testing and how,its budget,and “that what they’re doing is of significant quality,’’ Howman said.

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