To coin a phrase, reputations can be lost at the speed that Usain Bolt sprints.
That’s the problem for Jamaica’s status as a sprinting superpower. So illustrious is its record, its fall is that much more perilous. Consider this:
Usain Bolt (current world recorder, 100m and 200m).
Yohan Blake (Olympic silver, 100m and 200m).
Asafa Powell (former 100m record holder).
Sherone Simpson (Olympic relay silver medallist).
Jamaica has produced some of world sprinting’s greatest. But right now, it is in shock, considering some of its best-known athletes have tested positive for banned substances. The story is being followed around the world but more particularly across the Caribbean.
Powell and Simpson claim they never knowingly cheated. And Jamaican sports medicine expert Dr Paul Wright has just told the BBC that the problem is in the supplements, which contain banned drugs.
That said, he has also indicated the athletes should have known better. “This is just a tragedy and when you understand that these are experienced athletes, they should know that you do not do these types of things,” he said, adding that the University of the West Indies has one of the Caribbean’s most modern labs “(so) all they have to do is carry any substance up there and ask them to check it for them… it is pure stupidity how these people keep getting caught.”
Clearly, Dr Wright inclines to the no-fault-but-stupidity theory and there is nothing to suggest that Mr Powell and Ms Simpson had any reason to jeopardize their careers, the generous sponsorship that sustained them and the halo that envelops them.
The drug that reportedly turned up in their urine samples is a stimulant called oxilofrine or methylsynephrine. Dr Wright explains that Oxilofrine “is a change in the molecular structure of ephedrine which is banned, but is also available in all cold and flu supplements.”
The drug, he says, is “mainly used by people with low blood pressure… as a stimulant. It gets its popularity in sports as to help people to run faster.”
Any boost is, of course, of little use to Jamaica and its sprinting glory.