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Antidoping is a double-edged sword. The more vigorous the antidoping effort, the more p.r. crises a sport faces. In track and field, the antidoping effort has been vigorous and the crises intense. The latest scandal broke over the weekend on a day that some track enthusiasts immediately dubbed Black Sunday.
Early on that day U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay—who has the world's best time in the 100 meters this year and looked as if he might challenge Usain Bolt at next month's world championships in Moscow—told the Associated Press that he had failed a drug test. The specimen had been taken in May, between competitions. (His A sample tested positive, and the confirmatory B sample will soon be tested by USADA, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.)
The 30-year-old Gay, triple gold medalist at the 2007 world championships and the '12 Olympic 100-meter silver medalist, speaking from Amsterdam, told the AP, tearfully, "I don't have a sabotage story. I don't have any lies. I don't have anything to say to make this seem like it was a mistake.... I basically put my trust in someone and I was let down." Gay has withdrawn from the world championships, and on Monday, Adidas suspended his contract.
Within hours of Gay's admission came news that five Jamaican track and field athletes, including Asafa Powell—the world-record holder in the 100 before Bolt—and 2004 Olympic women's 4 × 100-relay gold medalist Sherone Simpson, had failed drug tests, reportedly for stimulants at the Jamaican championships last month.
Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of Black Sunday for track and field enthusiasts was that the news was met more with sadness and resignation than with shock and outrage. In the hours on Sunday between the announcement that some Jamaican athletes had tested positive but before the names were known, track fans discussed whether the sport could even survive should Bolt's name turn up. The fate of sprinting itself, it seems, is hanging by a Bolt.
Still, on a day when track snatched the doping news cycle back from baseball and cycling, things played out nothing like the Biogenesis mess and the sordid l'affaire de Lance. Gay did not even wait for his B sample to be tested to make an admission. Powell issued a statement saying that his positive result was for the stimulant methylsynephrine.
Paul Doyle, the agent for Powell and Simpson, says that the two athletes have been working recently with Canadian trainer Chris Xuereb. On Sunday police in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy, searched the hotel rooms of Powell, Simpson and Xuereb, removing about 50 supplements and medicines, which were sent to a lab for testing. SI's attempts to contact Xuereb have been unsuccessful. Gay has not yet elaborated on who it was who let him down. He has been working recently with Clayton Gibson, an Atlanta chiropractor and antiaging specialist. "Antiaging" has become synonymous in sports with banned substances, particularly HGH, testosterone and the testosterone precursor DHEA.
When reached by SI, Gibson confirmed that he began working with Gay last year, and emphasized that all his products are natural and "food based." He said that he could not identify, without looking at his files and without Gay's permission, what Gay was taking. When pressed on whether he ever suggests that patients use products containing substances such as testosterone or DHEA, which are banned in track, Gibson said, "It all depends."
Even as they make admissions, Gay, Powell and Simpson are implying that part of the blame lies elsewhere, with someone they trusted. They seem to want to portray their use of performance-enhancing substances as unintentional. But in track and field the policy toward banned substances is zero tolerance. And, increasingly, the same goes for explanations.