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What will positive tests mean for The Bahamas?

Finlayson says Bahamian athletes will still have to focus on running their best
SHELDON LONGLEY
Guardian Sports Editor
slongley@nasguard.com

Published: Jul 17, 2013

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With four of the world’s biggest stars possibly out of the IAAF World Championships, one voluntarily, the question here at home is what kind of effect will it have on Bahamian sprinters?

The Bahamas has a number of qualifiers in the short sprints in both genders, and the absences of American Tyson Gay, as well as Jamaicans Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown could be vital as far as moving through the rounds is concerned. Not to mention, defending champion in the men’s 100 meters (m) and the second fastest 200m runner ever, Yohan Blake, of Jamaica, skipped the Jamaican trials with a nagging hamstring injury and is out of the world championships as well.

The 14th International Association of Athletic Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships is set for August 10-18, in Moscow Russia.

“Well the short sprints are open, but they are not wide open. There are a lot of other athletes out there as well,” said Alpheus Finlayson, the first Bahamian to serve on the IAAF’s Council. “The US has the NCAA Champion (National Collegiate Athletic Association Champion English Gardner) who is a strong up-and coming sprinter, there is the Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, and the other girl from Africa as well (Murielle Ahouré from the Ivory Coast). All of those athletes are running very well. There are a ton of Jamaicans and Americans who could step up to the plate and run well in both the men and women. Our athletes, particularly the young ones like Shaunae and Anthonique, can’t go into those races and think about those star athletes being out and thinking that it’s going to be easy. Someone always pops up in the world championships who you didn’t hear about before. I think that the 100 and 200m, in both the men and women, will still be exciting. The public would want to stay tuned because it will still be one of the best world championships ever.”

The Bahamas has two qualifiers in the men’s 100m - Derrick Atkins and Shavez Hart, three in the 200m - Michael Mathieu, Jamial Rolle and Trevorvano Mackey; three in the women’s 100m - Sheniqua Ferguson, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie and Cache Armbrister; and three in the women’s 200m - Anthonique Strachan, Shaunae Miller and Nivea Smith.

Out of the 11, Atkins and Ferguson-McKenzie are the only two to make it through to the final of any world championships - Ferguson-McKenzie, a former champion over 200m, and Atkins, the world silver medalist from 2009.

Despite the absence of Gay and the elite Jamaicans this year, there are still quite a number of top sprinters out there who the Bahamians would have to compete against. For instance, the world’s fastest man ever Usain Bolt, of Jamaica, hasn’t gone anywhere, former World and Olympic Champion Justin Gatlin, of the United States of America (USA), appears to be back to top form, and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is as formidable as they come in the female short sprints. In addition, USA Track & Field and the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) are yet to ratify their teams for the global meet, and athletes still have until July 29 to qualify.

Tyson Gay is the world leader over 100m this year, and is just one hundredth of a second off Bolt’s 19.73 for the world lead in the 200m. The world was looking forward to a marquee match-up between the two, in both short sprints, at next month’s world championships, but after failing an out-of-competition test for a banned substance, Gay voluntarily pulled out of the Moscow World Championships. Gay, who went out of his way to promote himself as an anti-drug athlete by taking part in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s “My Victory” program, said that he simply put his trust in the wrong person.

Both Powell and Simpson tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrine at the Jamaican National Championships in June. Powell is calling for an investigation as to how the stimulant entered his system, and Simpson said she would not intentionally take an illegal substance of any form into her system. Former world record holder Powell finished out of the top three in the men’s 100m at the Jamaican championships, but was still expected to be a contributor for the men’s sprint relay. Simpson was set to represent Jamaica in both short sprints at the world championships. She was second behind Kerron Stewart in the women’s 100m at the Jamaican championships, and second behind Fraser-Pryce in the 200m.

As for Campbell-Brown, she tested positive for a banned diuretic at a meet in May, and has been provisionally suspended by the JAAA. As a result, she didn’t compete in the Jamaican championships but has a bye into the world championships in the 200m as the defending champion in that event.

“There are a lot of banned substances that athletes wouldn’t know about, so there is this need to constantly be careful of what enters your body,” said Finlayson. “All of these athletes have trainers and advisors, but you and you alone are responsible for what you put into your system. You cannot take the chance of trusting someone with any particular substance. You have to check with the authorities first, to ensure that you are clean and that it is okay to take a particular substance. Our athletes have to be careful because they are out there rubbing shoulders with all of these athletes. It is through working hard, that one would achieve true success. Once you are banned, if only once, it goes against your reputation and that could last a lifetime even if it’s a simple thing.”

Finlayson added that as a track and field historian and an enthusiast, he is disappointed with these latest doping discoveries, but he encourages all federations to do out-of-competition testing to ensure that the sport is clean.

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