While Gay’s case gets sorted out on U.S. turf, the positives recorded by Powell and Simpson are part of a bigger doping crisis hitting Jamaica, the home of Bolt and the country that has won 28 medals over the last three Olympics.
In Sunday’s editions, The Gleaner newspaper of Jamaica reported that five athletes had tested positive. Paul Doyle, the agent who represents Powell and Simpson, confirmed to the AP that his sprinters were among them.
Shortly after Doyle’s confirmation, Powell and Simpson each released statements acknowledging the positive tests.
The news stirred up angst on the island, where success on the track is a point of pride but the rigor of the country’s anti-doping program is under constant scrutiny.
“This does not auger well for track and field globally,” said Rashalee Mitchell, a 29-year-old assistant social sciences lecturer at Jamaica’s campus of the University of the West Indies. “It is fast serving to taint ... our proud and long-standing reputation of producing strong, excellent, raw, homegrown talent that has excelled on the world stage without any drug-related enhancement.”
The news came a month after another Jamaican Olympic gold medalist, Veronica Campbell-Brown, tested positive for a banned diuretic.
Campbell-Brown is being suspended while a disciplinary panel reviews her case. Track’s governing body said the case appeared to involve a “lesser” offense, which could mean a reduced sentence for the 200-meter champion at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
Shortly after news of Campbell-Brown’s positives, her agent, Claude Bryan, said his client is not a cheat and she does not accept “guilt of willfully taking a banned substance.”
The known banned substances in these cases, a diuretic and a stimulant, don’t resemble the steroids and designer drugs that took down some of the world’s top athletes — Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Ben Johnson, to name a few — over the past years and decades. But many of the denials and claims of extenuating circumstances in the current cases carry a whiff of familiarity.