All is not lost for Jamaican sprinting

Eleanor Simmons 20 November 2013

Usain Bolt and Shelley Ann Fraser-Pryce created a legacy for Jamaican sprinting that seemed untouchable. This summer, it was torn apart. Six Jamaican athletes tested positive for banned substances, including Bolt’s self-professed ‘uncle’ Asafa Powell, and three-time Olympic gold medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Jamaica’s anti-doping commission (JADCO) is in a mess. Chairman Herb Elliott recently resigned, and in the six months leading up to London 2012, only one drugs test was conducted. Deemed by US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart to be “an injustice to the fairness of sport”, the Jamaican system has been investigated by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the results will be published next week.

This is not necessarily fair on its athletes. Asafa Powell has maintained his innoncence, and now Fraser-Pryce has spoken out. Jamaica’s world-class sprinters are selling and marketing their country to the world without support or education. Many young Jamaican athletes are unknowingly using illegal supplements because of a lack of guidance, medical attention, and correct diet. The problem lies with an Athletics Board which is letting its athletes down, and Fraser-Pryce – who was banned for six months herself in 2010 after taking painkillers for a toothache – has threatened to boycott the next championships unless changes are made.

With the reputation of athletes tarnished, sponsorship deals lost, and the threat of expulsion from Rio 2016, Jamaican sprinting has hit a new low. However, now that Bolt has targeted a new world record in the upcoming season, and with Warren Weir emerging, all hope is definitely not lost.