Athletics world stunned by doping news

UKA’s Neil Black among members of athletics community left disappointed and shocked by news that Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell have returned positive tests

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UK Athletics performance director Neil Black has said he has been left with feelings of ‘total disappointment’ following news that two of the sports biggest names have tested positive for banned substances, while Olympic 400m medallist and former world number one Katharine Merry was among those to voice her concerns as to the impact the revelations might have on future generations.

Reports that Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell are among six athletes to have failed drugs tests have hit the athletics community hard, with many in the world of the sport echoing Black’s shocked reaction.

Speaking at the Sainsbury’s British Championships on Sunday, where UK trials action was drawing to a close when news of Gay’s positive test broke, Black said: “My reaction is the same as everyone else – one of total disappointment that things like this can happen.

“Then you go through all of those other things – how does it happen, why does it happen, what are the circumstances? And you can’t make sense of it.”

News about former world champion Gay, the American 100m record-holder and current world leader over the distance, broke first with an Associated Press report advising that the 30-year-old had been informed by the US Anti-Doping Agency on that a positive sample had been returned from an out-of-competition test in May.

Reports of a number of Jamaican athletes having also tested positive then followed, with former 100m world record-holder Powell named as well as Olympic medallist Sherone Simpson.

The Associated Press report continued to quote Gay as saying ”I don’t have a sabotage story… I basically put my trust in someone and was let down,” while in a statement later published on Twitter, 30-year-old Powell insisted that he had not knowingly or wilfully cheated.

“I will confirm that a sample I gave at the National Trials in June earlier this year has returned ‘adverse findings’,” the statement read.

“The substance oxilofrine (methylsynephrine) was found, which is considered by the authorities to be a banned stimulant. I want to be clear in saying to my family, friends, and most of all my fans worldwide that I have never knowingly or wilfully taken any supplements or substances that break any rules. I am not now – nor have I ever been – a cheat.”

The reports came on a weekend that not only saw James Dasaolu break the 10 second barrier with his 9.91 clocking at the Sainsbury’s British Championships, an achievement which has been overshadowed by the more sombre news, but the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk and European Under-23 Championships in Tampere were also drawing to a close. Merry was commentating at the World Youths in Donetsk and was one of many to voice her concern over what impact revelations like this might have on future generations in the sport.

“More than ever young athletes need to have guidance from old wise heads to keep them enthusiastic and reminded you can achieve, you are good enough,” she tweeted.

“Otherwise we will lose them. I heard one athlete yesterday saying ‘what’s the point?’ as their idol failed a test. My heart sunk. Not everyone cheats.”

Double European indoor champion Perri Shakes-Drayton was advised of the news about Gay as she left the track having claimed her fifth national title over the 400m hurdles in the final event of the day in Birmingham. The next day she was at her old school, Bishop Challoner, to lead an athletics master class with pupils and from there told AW how important it is that youngsters have a range of other role models to look up to.

“It’s overshadowed the performance of British athletics this weekend,” she said of the doping news. “I was told as soon as I crossed the line and it’s good that WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) is cracking down and doing their thing to clean up the sport.

“A lot of youngsters look up to them,” she added, “but it’s good that you have the likes of me and the other positive role models and athletes who actually do work hard.”

Paula Radcliffe, the women’s marathon world-record holder who is a vocal campaigner against doping in sport, was also among those to give her reaction, tweeting: “Not a good day for cheats it seems! Doesn’t look good for our sport today but proves testing improving and clean athletes better protected.”

Responding to initial reports about Gay, retired 1998 European and Commonwealth champion Iwan Thomas tweeted: “I’m just so disappointed that the sport I love and worked my heart out for still has cheats,” he tweeted. “I always wore my GB vest with pride #TysonGay”

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