By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published June 6, 2016
An unnamed Jamaica medallist who participated at the 2008 Beijing Olympics has returned an adverse analytical finding upon retesting of the Beijing samples. Who is the unnamed athlete?
Track and Field is the heartbeat of the nation. The glorious exploits from the 1948 Olympics right up to now are a beckon of pride for the Jamaican people and their deep love for the sport over the years is unbridled and unquestionable.
Last week, Jamaicans were scared white as a sheet and many looked pale as ghosts when news surfaced that a Jamaican athlete was among 31 athletes, spanning six sports and 12 countries, who had their retested A samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics having banned substances. The fears of many Jamaicans were compounded when it was mentioned that the individual with the adverse finding was a medallist at the 2008 Olympics Games. The culmination of years of struggle, hard work and running against the cheats of other countries, as we often cried, was realised at the Bird’s Nest in 2008. This struggle, which was transformed into triumph, is now being haunted by a ghost of doping past. Speculation is rife as to who is this nameless person? Not Bolt, I was asked over and over. Not Bolt, I will confirm. Nevertheless, who is the ghost athlete?
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that the athlete from the 2008 Olympics tested positive for the substance, methylhexaneamine, which was NOT on the WADA 2008 prohibited list of substances. Huh? How can this be? Shocking isn’t it?
In June 2009, Yohan Blake, Marvin Anderson, Lansford Spence, Allodin Fothergill and Sheri-Ann Brooks returned positive tests for the same substance, methylhexaneamine, which was NOT on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 2009 prohibited list either. You must be joking, I can hear you saying.
The 2009 analytic findings, labelled as adverse for the athletes, at the time, were returned from samples obtained at the National Senior Track and Field Championships in June of 2009. Methylhexaneamine, a stimulant NOT a steroid, is known scientifically as 4-methylhexan-2-amine. Interestingly, it was placed on WADA’s prohibited substance list in 2010. Yet, Blake, Anderson, Spence, Fothergill and Brooks were withdrawn from the Jamaican team for the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and were subsequently banned for three months by Jamaica Anti-Doping Appeals Tribunal in – which year again – 2009. Now a Jamaican athlete from the 2008 Olympics is likely to be banned for a substance that was NOT on the banned list in 2008. Confused? Just wait there’s more.
Prior to receiving the three-month ban in 2009, the quintet of athletes was cleared by the disciplinary committee appointed by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO), only for JADCO to appeal the decision and win on appeal, resulting in the bans received by the athletes for a substance NOT on the banned list.
Kent Gammon, the chairman of the JADCO disciplinary committee, at the time, said of his decision to exonerate the athletes, “the athletes had no case to answer”. He further implied that this was due to the substance not being on the 2009 WADA prohibited list. “Therefore the athletes were not liable under the WADA code,” he concluded. That decision as we know was reversed. Why?
Here is the grey area. Though a substance may not be explicitly stated on the banned list you can be banned for it. I kid you NOT.
Methylhexaneamine (4-methylhexan-2-amine) is an isomer of banned stimulant tuaminoheptane (heptan-2-amine) which was on WADA’s 2008 and 2009 prohibited list of substances. Both compounds have similar chemical structures and contain the same number of carbons, hydrogen and nitrogen. The yearly prohibited substance list published by WADA has a loophole which WADA uses to catch athletes who take substances NOT listed explicitly but which a similar in structure and effects. It states all the substances banned and adds, “… and other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s).”
That’s the loophole which JADCO used to institute the bans against Blake, Anderson, Spence, Fothergill and Brooks in 2009. Was it fair then? No. According to my sources, the IAAF and WADA had suggested a public warning as the appropriate punishment in 2009 for the quintet. However, in their eyes, JADCO over reached to ban the athletes and show that they were tough on doping. It seems a similar act is afoot for the Jamaican ghost athlete if it’s confirmed he tested positive for methylhexaneamine.
If the current adverse analytical finding is for something more egregious than what was on banned list, then the detectability of the WADA testing methods in 2008 – and before – is wanting at best.
Glen Mills, coach of three of the five athletes at the time, Blake, Anderson and Fothergill and the Racers track club threatened legal action against the manufacturer of the supplement which yielded the positive results for his athletes in 2009. Mills has shared his issues with WADA testing policy recently.
Stephen Francis and MVP has had their share of issues in recent years with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, former club mates, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson all yielding positive results and receiving bans. Powell and Simpson also brought legal action against a supplement manufacturer recently.
According to my sources, the alleged ghost athlete and other Jamaican athletes, including our premier athletes, are in line to lose medals due to the ghost athlete’s participation on Jamaica relay teams. My sources have indicated that at least one medal is currently under threat, with up to five possibly in play should the results since 2008 be wiped clean.
In the past, Jamaica fans were unrepentant when other countries’ athletes produced adverse analytical findings. I sense a different wind when it’s one of our own. With prominent lawyers retained all around, I hope WADA, IOC, IAAF, JADCO, JOA and JAAA get their act together and tread carefully with these retest results. Overreaching again will not be seen as fair but an unjust ghost hunt of the likes of 2009. Whatever the decision be, I sense another trip to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
Until next time…
Zaheer E. Clarke is a freelance sportswriter who shares alma mater with the legendary Usain Bolt.
This blog article was republished in the Western Mirror on June 6, 2016.