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

Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

Monica Puig
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NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Puig gazed out at her fellow Puerto Ricans jamming the parade route, and in their eyes she saw hope.

They hailed her with “a sense of satisfaction,” she recalled Saturday, “and a sense of belief that things are going to get better.”

Throughout her stunning run to the Olympic tennis gold medal, Puig embraced the symbolism of each upset victory. An economic crisis is devastating the island of her birth, and she appreciated that if she could prove the impossible is possible, that message would reverberate far beyond sports.

“If Puerto Rico channels that same energy and belief that things will get better and working for the better of the island, the better of the community, things will improve,” Puig said four days after the U.S. territory honored its Olympic team and, above all, its first gold medalist.

“I really hope I gave them a lot of confidence moving forward,” she added, “that things will actually get better.”

The world’s 34th-ranked women’s tennis player met with a roomful of reporters Saturday, exactly two weeks after she beat Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final in Rio de Janeiro. Poised and philosophical in ways that bely her age, the 22-year-old realizes some people deem her gold medal “a fluke.”

After all, Puig has never made it past the round of 16 at a major. And at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, she’s never advanced beyond the second round. Puig is already bracing herself for the reality that her run at Flushing Meadows could fall well short of what took place in Rio.

“I’m 22 years old. There’s still a long way for me to go, a long stretch of career,” she said. “If anything happens, any kind of slip-up, it’s not really going to be a big deal, because I have a process and I have a long-term view of where I want to go.”

Which isn’t to say she expects a slip-up.

“I know that the Olympics wasn’t a fluke for me, because I have worked very hard to get to where I am,” Puig said. “I know the hours and the tears and the sweat and everything that’s been put into my practices. It’s been very difficult for me.

“But that moment, nobody will be able to take away.”

Even she considers that Olympic moment to be like something out of a movie script. When spectators chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes you can!” in Spanish) during the final against the second-ranked Kerber, Puig flashed back to a scene from the film “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

With fans roaring “U-S-A!” coach Herb Brooks tells his players: “Listen to them. That’s what you’ve done.” As Puig said Saturday, “I needed to listen to the crowd.”

Her gold might not have been quite as unlikely as the Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t too far off. The night after her victory, Puig slept with the medal on her nightstand, waking up every few hours to make sure it was real. She still feels the need to check up on it during the day.

“I see the videos and I’m like, ‘Did this really just happen?'” Puig said.

When they showed the clip of her medal ceremony when she was honored in Puerto Rico, she started crying again. Through it all, she insisted Saturday, she felt she kept her focus, knowing the U.S. Open was looming.

After Rio, Puig spent some time with her family in Miami, where she lives. Then it was on to the island “where the big party was waiting.” It’s been hard to squeeze in sleep and alone time and practice — all the things she needs to recover from one big event and prepare for another.

Puig faces 60th-ranked Zheng Saisai, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics, in the first round Monday. She originally wasn’t seeded at Flushing Meadows, which meant she could have faced a top player in her opening match, but she moved up to the final seed when Sloane Stephens withdrew because of an injury Friday.

It’s the first time Puig has been seeded at a major, and in what was a breakthrough season even before her golden moment, she’s starting to grow comfortable with those sorts of roles.

“I feel like I finally understand what I’m doing when it comes to tennis,” she said.

MORE: U.S. goes one-two in Olympic mixed doubles

Ryan Bailey, former Summer Olympic medalist: My goal is Winter Olympics

Ryan Bailey, Usain Bolt
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Ryan Bailey is looking for thrills and another Olympic medal.

Bobsled might be his ticket to both.

Bailey — a longtime sprinting specialist and a Summer Olympic veteran — won the U.S. bobsled preliminary push championship for rookie hopefuls in Lake Placid, New York, on Saturday, the first step on a path that he’s hoping leads to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“That’s obviously the goal,” Bailey said after Saturday’s competition. “I’m not here to be just part of the team. I’m here to actually be on the Olympic team and make one of those spots. That’s what I’m shooting for. Hopefully once I get on ice everything can transition the way I’m expecting. That’s what I want and hopefully the coaches can see that.”

Bailey sprinted for the U.S. at the London Olympics four years ago and left with a silver medal from the 4×100-meter relay, though Tyson Gay‘s doping case eventually meant that medal had to be returned and reallocated. Bailey also made the 100-meter final in those games, racing alongside Usain Bolt and some of the other fastest men alive.

He tried to make the U.S. team for the just-completed Rio Games, but a bad hamstring doomed his chances of qualifying. So now, it’s a winter sport that he’s turning to with hopes of securing a medal — and keeping it this time.

“I’m still not over it,” Bailey said.

It’s not uncommon for bobsled and track to be luring the same athletes.

Lauryn Williams medaled as a sprinter in the summer games, and teamed with Elana Meyers Taylor to win silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Longtime U.S. hurdles star Lolo Jones was on the Sochi team as a push athlete and should be in the mix for another spot in 2018. Tianna Bartoletta won gold in both the long jump and the 4×100-meter relay in Rio, and credited the time she spent as a World Cup-caliber bobsledder as a major help.

And in years past, the track-to-bobsled switch was pulled off by the likes of Edwin Moses, Willie Davenport and Renaldo Nehemiah.

Bailey could be next. His win Saturday earns him a spot at the national push championships, which will be held on ice in Calgary, Canada next month. From there, a national team spot could await — and if that happens, that 2018 Olympic spot would only get closer to his reach.

“I’m an adrenalin junkie, I guess,” Bailey said. “So seeing a sled go 80, 90 miles an hour down a hill, to me that looks like pure fun.”

This was Bailey’s first trip to Lake Placid, and part of the trip included a walk along the U.S. team’s home track at Mount Van Hoevenberg. There’s no ice on the track yet, but even as just a concrete tube Bailey understood the challenge that awaits.

“Walking down the track and through the curves, I was in awe,” Bailey said. “These things are 20 feet tall, it’s ridiculous, it’s basically vertical. I can’t imagine flying through there.”

Other winners Saturday included Briauna Jones in women’s bobsled, Nikia Squire in women’s skeleton and Christopher Strup in men’s skeleton.

MORE: Steven Holcomb reacts to Russia bobsled doping report