By Stephen Wilson
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON _ The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency is travelling to Jamaica to check whether the Caribbean island has finally set up an effective drug-testing program in the tiny nation that produces the world’s dominant sprinters.
Craig Reedie will become the first WADA president to visit Jamaica, which came under scrutiny following revelations of a complete lack of out-of-competition testing among Usain Bolt and other star athletes in the months before the 2012 London Olympics.
Jamaica has revamped its drug-testing program after an audit by WADA and set up a new national anti-doping agency with new leadership in collaboration with the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport.
Reedie will meet with Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission leaders to gauge the progress for himself.
“I want to meet with them and make sure that the errors which were made in the previous regime have been addressed and will not be repeated,” Reedie told The Associated Press. “I genuinely think they have held their hands up and said, ‘Yes, we got it wrong, so we’re putting in it order.’ It will be nice to confirm that that was done.”
Reedie, who is also a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, was flying to Kingston on Friday at the invitation of Michael Fennell, head of the Jamaican Olympic Association. He will meet Monday with directors of JADCO and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
Reedie said he wants to learn the full extent of Jamaica‘s drug-testing system.
“It’s highly relevant as we head for the start of a track and field season,” he said in a telephone interview.
Jamaica‘s track and field athletes have won 28 medals over the past three Summer Olympics, including 12 in London. Bolt has won six Olympic gold medals and nine world championship golds and will be going for more at this year’s World Championships in Beijing and next year’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Jamaica has been attempting 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 IAAF, but not at home by their own anti-doping authorities.
Eight Jamaican athletes tested positive in 2013, including former 100-meter record holder Asafa Powell and three-time Olympic medallist Sherone Simpson. Powell and Simpson had their 18-month bans cut to six months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Three-time Olympic gold medallist sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown tested positive for a banned diuretic at a national meet, but was cleared by CAS because of flaws in the test collection procedure.
“They had in one case an unfortunate error of not organizing a test which was done according to the international standards,” Reedie said. “I’m sure that will be rectified and it would not be nice to have that confirmation.”
Jamaica has augmented the budget for drug testing, increased the number of tests and hired senior executives to run the anti-doping program. JADCO recently announced it was on the verge of introducing blood testing.
Reedie is convinced that Jamaica is in compliance with WADA’s rules and regulations. No-notice, out-of-competition testing is considered vital for catching drug cheats, along with the biological passport program carried out by international federations that monitors blood profiles over time for signs of doping.
Reedie will travel from Kingston to Rio, where he will attend an IOC executive board meeting and update members on his Jamaica trip.
“When I leave there I’m confident they will be able to assure me that all the improvements they worked on in the last six to nine months are now fully in place, and that they move forward with confidence,” he said.
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