Police probing Asafa, Simpson
ROME – Former 100 metres world record holder Asafa Powell, Jamaican teammate Sherone Simpson and their physical trainer were formally placed under criminal investigation for allegedly violating Italy’s doping laws, police said yesterday.
The move came a day after Italian police confiscated unidentified substances in a raid on the hotel where the trio was staying in the northeastern town of Lignano Sabbiadoro after the athletes tested positive for banned stimulants.
The trainer is Christopher Xuereb, of Canada.
Udine prosecutors believe the trio violated Article 9 of the doping laws, which calls for punishment for whoever administers or consumes banned substances.
Police were still analyzing the substances seized to determine if they were legal.
Being formally placed under investigation is a step up in the Italian justice system from someone simply “informed of the facts”, which is how someone can be questioned by police. That occurred after the raid early Monday, when the trio was taken to a local police station.
Police told The Associated Press the raids were executed following a tip from the World Anti-Doping Agency. Paul Doyle, agent for the two sprinters, said they worked in conjunction with WADA on the raid after becoming suspicious that Xuereb, their newly hired trainer, might have given them supplements laced with a banned substance. Doyle also said Powell and Simpson were aware of the impending raid, but Xuereb was kept out of the loop.
“Asafa and Sherone have been tested more than 100 times each throughout their career . . . and never turned in a positive test,” Doyle told AP in a phone interview.
“Now they change their supplements and the first time they get tested, they have a positive test? It has to be something in those new supplements that has caused it. Chris is the one that provided those.
“We’re not trying to throw Chris under the bus and blame him for anything. We know it has to be something in the supplements he gave them. We’re not saying he did anything deliberate, but it’s in those supplements. We need to figure out what it was that caused this and from there move forward.”
An email to Xuereb wasn’t returned.
WADA director general David Howman likened this case to the doping scandal involving the Austrian cross country skiing and biathlon teams at the 2006 Turin Olympics, when Italian police raided athletes’ residences following a tip from WADA and the IOC.
“There’s nothing new in relation to the way we operate,” Howman added.
Doyle said the athletes had left Lignano but declined to say where they went. A hotel receptionist said late Monday that Xuereb had checked out.
Powell and Simpson tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrine at the Jamaican championships last month, Doyle announced Sunday, and the agent welcomed the investigation.
“That must mean they found something. That’s good,” Doyle said. “The whole purpose of the raid was to see what products there were there and, hopefully find whatever it was that caused this positive test. Asafa and Sherone were under the assumption and led to believe everything they were taking was completely legal.” (AP)