Former 100-metre world record holder Asafa Powell told a Jamaican disciplinary panel yesterday that he didn’t tell a doping control officer about most of the supplements he was taking because the products were new to him and he couldn’t recall their names.
The 31-year-old sprinter, one of Jamaica’s outstanding athletes after lowering the world record in the 100 to 9.74 seconds in 2008, made the comments in testimony before a three-member panel of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). Over two days of hearings, at least, Powell and his attorneys will try to explain why he tested positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrone.
Like former teammate Sherone Simpson, a three-time Olympic medallist who tested positive for the same stimulant at the sprinting powerhouse’s national trials in June, Powell placed the blame on a newly-hired physiotherapist who provided the two athletes with supplement regimes. Both sprinters have been suspended from competition since testing positive.
Powell testified that he received nine supplements from Canadian physical therapist Christopher Xuereb, including one called “Ephiphany D1”, which lab tests later found to contain oxilofrone. He said he started taking Epiphany D1 capsules and other new supplements after he and a friend researched them for up to six hours online and found no prohibited substances.
He said he also got the go-ahead from agent Paul Doyle, who Powell testified had recommended Xuereb. Doyle has said the sprinter was referred to Xuereb through other physiotherapists that Doyle’s clients have worked with in the past.
Yesterday, Powell testified that he quickly became “good friends” with the Canadian physiotherapist, who he said he first met in May—a month before the national trials. Powell said he trusted Xuereb so much that he invited him to live in his home and even let him play with his young daughter.
Xuereb has said he didn’t give Powell and Simpson any performance-enhancing drugs and only purchased major brand vitamins.
In July, he told The Associated Press that “both athletes are clearly looking for a scapegoat”. He once worked at the Toronto clinic run by Anthony Galea, the sports physician whose clients included golfer Tiger Woods. Galea pleaded guilty to bringing unapproved and mislabelled drugs into the United States for house calls.
On the morning of the trials for the World Championships, Powell said he took four capsules of Epiphany D1 at Xuereb’s suggestion, after previously taking two each morning since getting the supplements from Xuereb in early June. He testified that he did not tell doping control officer Paul Wright about all the new supplements he’d been ingesting, only listing three on his declaration form.
When JADCO attorney Lackston Robinson asked Powell why he did this, the athlete said: “Sir, these were new supplements to me, so due to the excitement of the trials, I couldn’t remember.”
Powell said before meeting Xuereb, he took a few supplements off and on.
Robinson accused Powell of being “significantly negligent”.
Powell found out that he had tested positive for a banned substance while he was staying at the Jamaicans’ training camp in the northern Italian resort town of Lignano Sabbiadoro. Powell said he and Doyle quickly became suspicious of Xuereb.
“At first, we had no idea what caused the positive test or where it came from. But Chris was the only new thing in my life,” he testified.
At Doyle’s suggestion, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was notified and a raid of the Italian hotel was quickly organised.
Supplements were seized and the two sprint stars and Xuereb were formally placed under criminal investigation. However, after being questioned by detectives at Lignano police station, Powell testified that he signed photographs and posed for pictures with star-struck officers, who even allowed him to drive a squad car back to the hotel.
Under cross-examination by Robinson, the sprint veteran who turned professional in 2002 testified that he wasn’t acquainted with doping control rules and had never attended a seminar on doping in Jamaica or abroad. Powell said he knew he was responsible for what he put into his body, but told Robinson that “in this sport, there are people you have to rely on”, such as coaches and agents.
“Whatever I don’t know, I can go to them,” said Powell, who left his longtime team, MVP Track Club, in September.
Simpson’s disciplinary hearings started last week and were expected to last for two days, but have been adjourned until early February. It’s not immediately clear if Powell’s hearings will also have to be extended.
Jamaica’s anti-doping programme was audited late last year by WADA after former director Renee Anne Shirley revealed that it didn’t drug-test its athletes for entire months before they dazzled at the 2012 London Olympics. The island’s top sports official said last year that JADCO is determined to improve its drug-testing regime and plans to commence blood analysis tests.