KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — After attempts by Jamaica’s anti-doping commission to delay an inquiry, a team from the World Anti-Doping Agency is scheduled to visit the island next week to begin a special audit of the sprinting powerhouse’s drug testing regime.
Herb Elliott, the chairman of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission, said Wednesday that three WADA officials will be on the Caribbean island Monday and Tuesday to inspect the agency in the wake of revelations of a near-complete breakdown of the commission’s out-of-competition testing from January 2012 to the July opening of the London Olympics.
“We have nothing to hide,” Elliott said in Jamaica, where eight athletes have tested positive for banned substances in 2013.
But despite an invitation from Jamaica’s prime minister and WADA’s indication that it was available to visit, JADCO had previously told the Montreal-based organization that an inspection could not be accommodated until early 2014.
The Jamaican agency’s response raised many eyebrows, even prompting WADA President John Fahey to call it “farcical” and “unacceptable” in an interview this week with Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
For his part, Elliott said he was “greatly annoyed” that the WADA official chose to go to the press instead of dealing with JADCO directly. But after he read Fahey’s comments, he said he told WADA Director General David Howman that the inspection team was welcome to “come anytime.”
When asked why Jamaica’s anti-doping commission told WADA it would have to wait months to launch its audit, Elliott said there were a number of factors at the time, including the travel schedule of some commissioners and preparation work for disciplinary hearings for athletes who tested positive.
“We had asked them to postpone it. We have always been very straight with them,” said Elliott, who was Jamaica’s team doctor at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
On Wednesday, WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said the agency could not confirm dates for the Jamaica visit and declined further comment.
The debate over the rigor of Jamaica’s anti-doping efforts have raged for more than a decade, as the island nation of 2.7 million has consistently racked up more medals in track and field than countries 10 times its size. But this year, statistics compiled by former JADCO executive director Renee Anne Shirley revealed that just one out-of-competition test was done between February 2012 and the start of the London Olympics five months later. She said when she raised various concerns, no JADCO or Cabinet official would take them seriously.
But the revelations by Shirley were alarming enough to prompt action outside Jamaica. While WADA has audited the island’s testing regime before, Howman has said its new special audit is a direct response to the problems she exposed and to the string of positive doping tests this year. The Jamaican athletes who have tested positive include former world record holder Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, an Olympic 400-relay gold and silver medalist.
In the lead-up to the London Olympics, Jamaican stars didn’t go completely untested. The International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s governing body, said it extensively tested elite Jamaicans, including the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, more than 12 times last year. The IAAF’s out-of-competition testing for Jamaica concentrated on athletes’ training camps and was “robust and comprehensive,” spokesman Chris Turner has told AP. Other agencies decline to say how many tests were conducted on Jamaican athletes in 2012.
Led by Bolt, who became the first man to win both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic games, Jamaica won eight of 12 individual sprint medals in London. Jamaica’s record haul of 12 medals in London surpassed the 11 it won in Beijing in 2008.
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