A decade on from the Balco scandal, athletics is facing another defining moment.
Five-time Olympic medallist Marion Jones was the biggest name to be disgraced when she admitted to taking drugs linked to The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (Balco).
The sport’s governing body, the IAAF, says the latest doping scandals enhance rather than diminish the credibility of track and field. The problem for athletics is that trust in the sport and its athletes was already paper thin.
Repeated revelations of cycling’s industrial-scale doping have obscured the truth for athletics that – even after a London Olympics which largely steered clear of damaging drugs controversies – it is still a problem that has never gone away.
Over the past few months there have been a series of positive tests and doping investigations.
In Kenya, the IAAF and the Kenyan Athletics Federation set up an inquiry into claims that there was widespread drug use in the country’s distance-running training camps. A temporary blood-testing lab has been set up to try and crack down on possible cheating.
In Russia, there are 42 athletes currently suspended for doping. With the World Championships in Moscow just a month away, this is a huge embarrassment.
In Turkey, eight athletes are under investigation but reports suggest the number under suspicion could be much higher than that.
And, perhaps most damaging of all, Jamaica are now facing difficult questions about doping after three of their biggest names tested positive for banned substances. Veronica Campbell Brown, the two-time Olympic 200m champion, has already been suspended for using a diuretic well known as a masking agent while Powell and Sherone Simpson have both produced an adverse finding.
In the cases of Powell and Simpson a second test, or B sample, must be verified before it is confirmed that they will face a disciplinary charge.
Local reports in Jamaica suggest another three athletes have also tested positive, although this has not been confirmed by the Jamaican Athletics Administrative Association.
For years now Jamaica have had to counter claims that their emergence as one of track and field’s super powers was in any way linked to banned drugs. The recent rash of cases will not do anything to remove the suspicions.
But by far the most damaging blow for athletics has been the news that Gay, the fastest man in the world this year and the 2007 world 100m
- Tyson Gay Tests Positive For Banned Substance, Joins Jamaica’s Asafa Powell And Sherone Simpson In Failing USADA Drug Test (medicaldaily.com)
- Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell test positive for banned substances (3news.co.nz)
- Reports: Asafa Powell among Jamaicans who tested positive (olympictalk.nbcsports.com)
- Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay fail drug tests (abc.net.au)
- Gay and Powell positives ‘a tragedy’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Steve Backley calls for stricter punishments on doping after Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell test positive (metro.co.uk)
- Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay admit to failed drug tests (talksport.co.uk)
- Colin Jackson: ‘Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay absences will leave void in athletics’ (sportsmole.co.uk)
- Olympian Sherone Simpson, Asafa Powell, and Tyson Gay fail drug tests (examiner.com)
- Athletics faces defining moment (bbc.co.uk)