Jamaica anti-doping agency starts collecting blood samples

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaica’s anti-doping agency announced Monday that it has started collecting blood samples to test athletes on the Caribbean island that produces the world’s dominant sprinters.

Carey Brown, the executive director of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission, said blood testing began this month with the guidance of the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport.

“The implementation of blood testing is a step in the right direction for anti-doping in Jamaica as this will further ensure the protection of our clean athletes,” Brown said in a statement from the commission.

With the assistance of the Canadian nonprofit and others, Jamaica has rebuilt its drug-testing program following revelations of a complete lack of out-of-competition testing leading up to the 2012 London Olympics and an audit by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The leadership of Jamaica’s anti-doping agency has been recast, while the budget for drug testing was boosted amid an austerity plan in the economically struggling country. JADCO now employs 18 doping control officers and 49 chaperones. Last year, it also launched a biological passport program to monitor blood profiles over time for signs of doping.

During a visit to Jamaica earlier this year, WADA president Craig Reedie said he was “hugely impressed” by the progress made by Jamaican authorities in building an effective testing program.

Jamaica has been working to repair its image since the former head of its drug-testing agency, Renee Anne Shirley, disclosed in 2013 that there had been a virtual absence of out-of-competition testing for six months before the London Games. Jamaican athletes were tested internationally by the IAFF, but not at home by their own anti-doping officials.

Eight Jamaican athletes tested positive later that same year, including former 100-meter record holder Asafa Powell and three-time Olympic medalist Sherone Simpson. Powell and Simpson had 18-month bans imposed by Jamaican authorities cut to six months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Three-time Olympic medalist sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown had tested positive for a banned diuretic at a Jamaica meet, but was totally cleared by CAS because of flaws in the test collection procedures.

The adoption of blood testing in Jamaica is important because the island’s track and field athletes have won 28 medals over the past three Summer Olympics.

The sport’s biggest name, Usain Bolt, has won six Olympic gold medals and nine world championships golds and will be going for more at this year’s World Championships in China and next year’s Summer Games in Brazil. For the women, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has won gold in the 100 meters during the last two Olympics.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd

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