Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Dear Asafa, ...

Last week it was announced that Jamaican sprinter and former world record holder Asafa Powell, was banned from competition for 18 months after testing positive for Oxiforan, a banned substance.  Powell claimed that the source of the substance was a nutritional supplement, which was given to him by his trainer, and which did not list Oxiforan as an ingredient.

Powel, his lawyer, and his agent, claim that he is innocent.  In this public letter to Asafa, I point out how he isn’t innocent, irrespective of whether or not he intended to cheat.

Dear Mr Powell,

While I may have been the first to cheer you on at a major championship, and hope that you might finally fulfil the potential that your fast times indicated, I have now lost all admiration for you as both an athlete and a person.  You have clearly broken the rules, so, in the words of Kim Collins, ‘man up’ and accept your punishment. 

As a lesson to you for the future (no doubt you’ll be like all the other cheats and won’t go away), and for other athletes who want to take the ‘I didn’t mean to cheat’ route, I just wanted to point out a few things that you should already have known.
  1. Strict Liability – An athlete, and only an athlete is responsible for what is found in his or her body.  If you’re going through airport security and a gun is found in your bag, blaming someone else isn’t going to do you much good.  Similarly, you should be vigilant about what is going into your body, and don’t go blaming coaches, trainers, parents, agents, doctors, dogs or baby sitters when a banned substance is found in your body.
  2. Nutrition supplements aren’t regulated, and the ingredient list should be taken with a pinch of salt.  The nandrolone scandal, now almost 20 years old, should have been a lesson to athletes that they can’t trust nutrition supplement producers.  We get that you don’t work in a supplement factory (I’m don’t know of any top level athlete that does), but surely you’ve heard other athletes blame positive tests on supplements they were taking?
  3. If a supplement claims to be ‘mind-bending’, as Epiphany D1 does, it’s probably not something you should be taking.  Having said that, if the supplement is called Epiphany D1, it’s probably not something you take to make up for not eating your greens.  Other things which the supplement claims to do include enhancing focus, attentiveness, short term and long term memory and vision, speeding up auditory and spatial thought processing, and optimising motor coordination.  On reading these benefits, would the word ‘stimulant’ not immediately pop into your head?  Think again about what the supplement claims to do – surely this is performance enhancement that if not illegal, is immoral.
  4. You benefited from a banned substance – there’s no denying that.  You should have to serve some punishment one those grounds alone.
  5. Nutritional supplements are generally a waste of money, and if not, they probably contain banned substances that they don’t list.  Try eating a balanced diet, and stop trying to get an unfair advantage.
  6. Next time you’re tested, try listing all the supplements and medications you’re taking on the doping form.  If there’s too many to remember, consider point 5 again.
  7. Jamaican charm may get you a long way with the ladies, but it won’t get you out of sticky doping situations, nor will pretending to be stupid.
For me, only one question remains: was 18 months long enough?

That is all.

Elizabeth Egan
(for drug free sport)

p.s. This advice is free.  No need to thank me.  Similar advice is available on the WADA website.

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