Asafa Powell’s trainer said yesterday he should not be blamed for a banned stimulant found in Powell’s system, and the embattled Jamaican sprinter has returned home to Kingston from Italy days after learning that he had tested positive for oxilofrine (methylsynephrine) at the Jamaica National Trials in June. His training partner Sherone Simpson also tested positive for the same substance.
Powell and his manager Paul Doyle blamed Powell’s Canadian personal trainer Chris Xuereb, whom Doyle hired in May, for the positive test. However, this has not yet been confirmed through testing.
Facing questions about hiring Xuereb, Doyle said that time constraint had prevented a thorough background check of the trainer as the Trials were approaching. The athletes, he said, had been led to believe everything they were taking was untainted, and that he and they should have been more vigilant about the supplements they used.
"In hindsight, we should've been given a list, made sure we got a list," Doyle said. "I said to him (Xuereb) in a text message, that all supplements have to be cleared by me first. He never cleared them with me. He did send them in an invoice that had the names of supplements in there that he had purchased. But that was it. I didn't have the ingredient list."
After news of the positive tests broke, Powell’s coach, Stephen Francis, stated categorically that he was not in favor of Xuereb, noting that he had warned Powell against getting involved with him and against trusting people whom he knew only since he has been on top.
"I told him I did not want this person around my training sessions," he added. "He was at Asafa's house – brought to Jamaica by Doyle. I cannot understand how this was done without the background of this guy being unveiled," he added.
‘Athletes Looking for Scapegoats’
Xuereb has subsequently responded that he did not give the sprinters performance-enhancing drugs and that he was disappointed over their blaming him for their violations.
"It is time the athletes took responsibility for their doping instead of looking around for a scapegoat, whether that person is their therapist, bartender or anyone else," he said in an email to some media houses, describing his relationship with Powell and Simpson. "Athletes keep using the same story, which is to blame the scapegoat for their own wrongdoing."
Xuereb, who was questioned for several hours and released by Italian police after they took some 50 substances from his hotel room and sent them for testing, further explained that he was not arrested and cooperated fully with the Italian authorities. He suggested that the athletes may have been taking other supplements of which he was not aware.
The scandal triggered fears in Jamaica that the supplements could have been shared by other members of MVP Track Club, since Doyle managed 400m specialist Shericka Williams also. However, Bruce James, president of the Club, where all three athletes train, told the Jamaica Observer newspaper yesterday that the possibility was almost non-existent. Doyle, he explained, had hired Xuereb to treat Powell and Simpson, both of whom were battling injuries at the time, while Williams was not.
James went on to say that "Xeureb was not a part of the MVP set-up, he was not employed by us, and so he would not have any interactions with any of the other athletes."
Meanwhile, the Chinese sportswear company Li Ning has suspended its sponsorship arrangement with Powell, a former 100m world-record holder, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Powell was said to have been meeting with Jamaican lawyers to plan his next move.
Two other Jamaicans, national record holder for the men’s discus throw Traves Smikle and national women’s discus record holder Allison Randal, also acknowledged being notified that their tests at the Trials returned adverse analytical findings. Both have said they did not intentionally take any banned substance.