Asafa Powell

Asafa Powell updates: under investigation in Italy

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The circumstances of Tyson Gay‘s positive drug test, such as the specific banned substance and the person who “let him down,” have yet to surface, but another day brought more information surrounding Asafa Powell.

UPDATE: Italian authorities placed Powell, Jamaican teammate Sherone Simpson, who also tested positive, and trainer Chris Xuereb under investigation, according to The Associated Press.    

Prosecutors believe the trio violated Article 9 of the doping laws, which calls for punishment for whoever administers or consumes banned substances.

The Telegraph reported that the police raid on Powell and Simpson’s hotel in Lignano, Italy, was requested by Powell and Simpson.

An Italian police captain told the AP it was unclear if the seized substances were illegal, but they were being analyzed.

Powell’s publicist, Tara Playfair-Scott, posted on Powell’s Twitter account that Aleve and 5-Hour ENERGY were in Powell’s room and given to Italian police.

The Olympic medalist sprinters, who were made aware of positive drug tests Saturday and admitted them Sunday, contacted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and requested the raid, according to the newspaper.

After obtaining the necessary search warrant, Italian police arrived at the hotel on Sunday evening and searched the rooms of Powell, Simpson and Xeureb, before removing all supplements and medicines. Police said around 50 substances had been sent to a laboratory in Italy to test for the presence of performance-enhancing drugs.

The news made the front page of Italy’s leading sports daily newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport, on Tuesday.

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Powell was the 100-meter world-record holder before Usain Bolt took it over in May 2008. Simpson was the 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the women’s 100.

Powell and Simpson were previously scheduled to compete in a meet in Lignano on Tuesday, according to the AP, but their names were not on the start lists as of Tuesday morning.

They, along with Gay, could face two-year bans from competition, assuming their “B’ samples don’t produce different results. However, suspensions have been reduced for athletes who make a strong case they unknowingly took supplements with banned substances.

Powell and Simpson’s agent and a coach with their Jamaica track club, MVP, blamed Xuereb for the banned stimulant oxilofrine showing up on tests at the Jamaican national championships last month.

“Once we knew of the positive test, we realized that Asafa and Sherone were the only two athletes in the group who had been given new supplements by this physio that they are working with,” their agent, Paul Doyle, told the Telegraph. “Asafa’s had probably 150 to 200 clear tests in the past. He starts working with a new physio who gives him new supplements and all of a sudden he has a positive test in his first test. It’s obvious there’s no other reason why he would have tested positive other than something being in the new supplements he’s been taking.

“So we immediately asked WADA to get the police there to go in and search everything in the physio’s possession as well as everything in Asafa and Sherone’s possession.”

Doyle hired Xeureb in May to treat Powell for his persistent health issues, which flared up when he injured his hamstring in Australia in March.

“He’d been highly recommended by some other athletes who had worked with him and had no shadiness in his past that we knew of,” he said. According to Doyle, Powell was put on more than a dozen different supplements by Xeureb but the labels were all checked in advance and none of the ingredients were on the banned list.

The MVP track club coach, Stephen Francis, said in an interview with a Jamaican radio station that Xuereb is renown with dark issues in the sport, according to the radio station’s Twitter account.

The New York Times reported Xuereb injected Powell with a drug used by Lance Armstrong‘s U.S. Postal Service cycling team.

Powell’s mother, Cislyn, told the Jamaica Gleaner that her son “is not a fool.”

“This is like a recitation,” she said. “I always say to him, ‘Don’t even trust yourself. Don’t take anything from anybody. Don’t eat from anyone.’ I really feel it from my heart, but still I put my trust in him that he would not have done that. It must be something that went wrong.”

During a recent visit to his parents’ home on Father’s Day, Mrs Powell said Asafa assured her: “Mama, I wouldn’t do anything like that.”

“I don’t believe that he went and buy it and take it like that,” Powell’s father, William, told the newspaper. “Somebody must be responsible for giving him that, and the person that give him must know that it is a banned substance. … That person mash up Asafa future.”

The Guardian detailed the benefits of the drug that Powell and Simpson tested positive for. Both sprinters denied knowingly taking oxilofrine through statements Sunday.

Oxilofrine “is a stimulant used to boost the body’s ability to burn fat,” the British newspaper wrote.

The substance helps athletes boost their power-to-weight ratio with more lean muscle and less fat, and so increase their speed.  …

The stimulant in question may also increase the rate at which the heart reaches its maximum performance during exercise, meaning a greater supply of oxygen can get to the muscles earlier.

The newspaper reported cyclists, runners and football and rugby players have been banned for using oxilofrine in the last three years.

Oxilofrine is an agent that stimulates part of the nervous system and was previously used to treat low blood pressure. More recently, it has started to appear in combination with caffeine in dietary supplements marketed as weight loss products.

However, the superiority of using oxilofrine over an exercise warm-up to achieve this appears unconvincing.

Ato Boldon: Impact of Gay, Powell on Bolt, track and field

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order