Almost a year after the high of the London Olympics and weeks before the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, the credibility of athletics suffered a crushing blow. Tyson Gay of the US, the world’s fastest man this year (he clocked 9.75 seconds in the 100m at the US World Championship trials), and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell tested positive for banned substances. So did another Jamaican, Sherone Simpson, a silver medallist in the women’s 4x100m relay at the 2012 Olympics.
Gay failed an out-of-competition test taken in May. Powell and Simpson were tested at the Jamaican track and field championships in June. The substance found in Gay’s sample is not known. Powell and Simpson tested positive for oxilofrene, a stimulant that speeds up fat burning.
“I don’t have a sabotage story... I basically put my trust in someone and was let down,” Gay said, “I know exactly what went on, but I can’t discuss it right now.” And Powell said, “I want to be clear in saying... that I have never knowingly or wilfully taken any supplements or substances that break any rules. I am not now—nor have I ever been—a cheat.” Gay and Powell join a lengthening list of sporting box-office hits, including Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong, who turned out to be cheats.
The revelations about Gay and Powell have left their rivals angry. Craig Pickering, part of Britain’s 4x100m relay team that finished third at the 2007 World Championships behind an American team featuring Gay and a Jamaican team possessing Powell, said, “I raced them lots of times and never beat them. If they have been doping [throughout their careers], I have lost out financially. In 2007, I would’ve been a world champion and that would’ve been a life-changing moment.”