Jamaica doping

Asafa Powell trainer Chris Xuereb says he’s ‘a scapegoat’

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The trainer of Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson denies providing banned substances to the Jamaican sprinters, who he says are “looking for a scapegoat.”

A 500-word email from Canadian trainer Chris Xuereb‘s account — titled “Statement” — was sent to media outlets including NBCSports.com on Tuesday night.

Xuereb has been blamed by the sprinters’ agent and track club coach for the positive drug tests returned by Powell, a former 100-meter world-record holder, and Simpson, the 2008 Olympic 100-meter silver medalist, from the Jamaican national championships in June.

Xuereb, Powell and Simpson were placed under investigation by Italian police on Tuesday for violating the country’s doping laws.

“I did not provide any banned or illegal substances to Asafa Powell or Sherone Simpson,” the email read. “While I did recommend vitamins, all vitamins recommended by me were all purchased over the counter at reputable Nutritional stores and were major brands.”

Powell and Simpson tested positive for the same banned stimulant, oxilofrine, according to their statements. They will likely face suspensions and probably won’t compete again this year pending “B” sample results.

“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,” the  sprinters’ 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.”

The email from Xuereb’s account disagrees.

“Both athletes are clearly looking for a scapegoat,” the email said. “I am confident, and I have also spoken to researchers and the Police, that I have done nothing wrong.”

Police raided the Italian hotel where the athletes and trainer were staying Monday. The raid was conducted at the request of the athletes to the World Anti-Doping Agency, it has been reported.

“All vitamins provided by me were found to be legal by the Italian Police,” the email said.

The email said Xuereb was hired in May by Powell and his agent to provide soft tissue massage therapy and nutritional help.

“These athletes did not inform me that they were taking any additional supplementation other than what I recommended and it is obvious that these athletes were taking additional supplements that were not discussed or known to me,” the email said. “It is time the athletes took responsibility for their doping instead of looking around for a scapegoat.”

The full, unedited copy of the email is below:

I was hired by Asafa Powell and his agent, Paul Doyle, and began working in May, 2013.   My primary responsibilities were to provide soft tissue massage therapy as well as nutritional help to manage the general health of these athletes.   These athletes were suffering from chronic injuries they had before I started working with them.   I worked extremely hard to help Asafa Powell and Sheron Simpson with their injuries. Most importantly, I did not provide any banned or illegal substances to Asafa Powell or Sherone Simpson. While I did recommend vitamins, all vitamins recommended by me were all purchased over the counter at reputable Nutritional stores and were major brands; Metagenics, SISU, AOR, Epiphany. I was instructed by the agent and athletes to buy these vitamins. All vitamins recommended by me were shown to the MVP club coach Stephen Francis. He has gone on record and confirmed the vitamins recommended by me did not contain any performance enhancing substance and were not what was found in Asafa and Sherone’s positive drug testing findings.  Further all vitamins provided by me were found to be legal by the Italian Police.I do not know what these athletes were taking in addition to what I suggested to them. Although I suggested certain vitamins to these athletes it is ultimately the athlete’s responsibility to accept or reject my suggestion.   These athletes did not inform me that they were taking any additional supplementation other than what I recommended and it is obvious that these athletes were taking additional supplements that were not discussed or known to me.I was informed by the italian Police that other supplements were found in these athletes’ possession. I cooperated fully with the Italian Police and provided answers to all their questions. I was not arrested or detained as alleged. I was simply questioned for several hours (as were Asafa and Sherone) and free to leave.Unfortunately it appears that these athletes were not solely following my suggestions or WADA’s guidelines. These guidelines are in place so all athletes can have a clean sport. Both athletes are clearly looking for a scapegoat. I am confident, and I have also spoken to researchers and the Police, that I have done nothing wrong. It is very difficult at this time to assist some athletes without risk of being made the scapegoat in these situations.We need to remember that in addition to Asafa and Sherone, three other Jamaican athletes tested positive at the 2013 Jamaican trials. I had no contact with these athletes nor do I know them.It is time the athletes took responsibility for their doping instead of looking around for a scapegoat whether that person is their therapist, bartender or anyone else. Athletes keep using the same story which is to blame the scapegoat for their own wrong doing. I am extremely disappointed that these athletes have chosen to blame me for their own violations.  WADA and the public needs to stop accepting these stories and hold these athletes accountable.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross beat top-ranked Brazilians for first time

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross
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Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross beat Brazil’s best beach volleyball team for the first time and extended the longest winning streak of their partnership in winning the Moscow Grand Slam on Sunday.

“That just shows our growth,” Ross said. “We’re still on the up and up.”

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, an Olympic silver medalist, beat Olympic qualifying top seed Larissa and Talita 22-20, 21-17 in the final for their third straight international title.

Walsh Jennings and Ross have now won 22 straight FIVB World Tour matches, the best run of their three-year parternship. Walsh Jennings last reached a streak this long from 2007 to 2010, when she won 78 straight international matches with Misty May-Treanor and Nicole Branagh, according to BVBInfo.com

The Americans had lost all three of their previous matches (one a one-set exhibition) versus Larissa and Talita:

Feb. 27, 2015 — 26-24 in Rio de Janeiro
Aug. 23, 2015 — 21-18, 21-16 in Long Beach, Calif.
March 20, 2016 — 22-20, 21-19 in Vitoria, Brazil

“You know what makes me happy? This is done. Now we’ve done it, we’ve beaten them and put it to rest,” Walsh Jennings said, according to USA Volleyball.

Larissa and Talita, seeking to become Brazil’s first Olympic women’s beach volleyball champions in 20 years, have won 12 of their 20 international tournaments since pairing in July 2014.

The FIVB World Tour continues in Hamburg, Germany, next week, the final event in Olympic qualifying. Walsh Jennings and Ross are expected to play there.

Walsh Jennings and Ross and Larissa and Talita are already qualified for the Rio Games.

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Star goalie Ashleigh Johnson set to make U.S. Olympic water polo history

Ashleigh Johnson
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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — Donna Johnson just wanted her five children to be safe around the pool at her Miami home. That was it, really, the first step in Ashleigh Johnson‘s path from prodigy to USA water polo.

Swim lessons turned into meets when their instructor told Donna Johnson her children were so good she had nothing left to teach them. When Ashleigh and her siblings continued to show athletic potential as they got older, Donna Johnson, a single mother and nurse from Jamaica, delivered a simple message to them.

“For everything that they do, it’s not about pressure, it’s about maximizing your potential,” she said.

Now her oldest daughter is about to make history this summer. Ashleigh, a goaltender blessed with jaw-dropping athleticism, is a lock for Rio de Janeiro, putting her on track to become the first black woman to play water polo for the U.S. Olympic team.

While this is just the fifth Games for the women’s tournament, Johnson’s ascension to elite goaltender is a welcome development for a sport looking for more diversity and growth outside of water polo-crazy Southern California.

Each of Johnson’s teammates is from the Golden State, and the same three Pac-12 schools — UCLA, Southern California and Stanford — dominate the roster. Seventy-five percent of USA Water Polo’s roughly 42,000 members live in California.

After starring at Ransom Everglades High School in Florida, Johnson opted for Princeton instead of USC.

“I think Ashleigh Johnson’s the future of our sport in the U.S.,” USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey said. “She’s an out-of-California athlete who grew up in Florida. She went to Princeton, high academic achiever from a different background than a lot of traditional water polo families are from.”

Just a short while ago, Johnson, 21, wasn’t interested in that future, at least with the national team. The thought of moving away from her tight-knit family and joining a new team in California wasn’t appealing to her, but several conversations with coach Adam Krikorian helped change her mind.

“I didn’t really know that the Olympics was a possibility for me,” Johnson said. “I thought it was just like coming and training like I had been doing for years, but just living out here, and he made me realize that the Olympics was a great opportunity and a possibility for me.”

Krikorian first heard of Johnson about 10 years ago when he was the head coach at UCLA. Nicolle Payne, one of his assistants with the Bruins and a former national team goaltender, was working a camp in Miami when she sent an email to Krikorian about America’s next great goaltender.

“She said, ‘Adam, keep this name in your mind,’ and she told me her name — Ashleigh Johnson,” Krikorian said. “‘She is the most amazing goalie I have ever seen.”‘

It’s easy to see what got Payne’s attention.

The 6-foot-1 Johnson has long arms, perfect for firing outlet passes for U.S. counterattacks and guarding the top parts of the goal, and she cuts through the water with impressive ease. Sick of swimming in high school, she was offered an out by her mother and coach if she won the 50-meter freestyle at states as a sophomore. So she won and walked away.

She collected 54 saves while helping the United States qualify for the Olympics at a tournament in the Netherlands in March, including 10 stops in an 11-6 victory over Italy in the final, capping an 8-0 performance for the Americans. But that gifted sprinter is still inside her.

At a recent practice, assistant coach Chris Oeding gave the team a chance to cut short the swimming portion of training if the players could assemble a sub-1:40 200-yard freestyle relay team. Krikorian and assistant coach Dan Klatt offered a nodding Johnson as a candidate, but four different players were chosen.

They made the time, but Johnson stole the show by swimming the second leg alongside the relay, leaving Krikorian and Klatt shaking their heads as she churned through the pool like a motorboat.

“She’s a freak,” Princeton coach Luis Nicolao said. “She’s just athletic. I often joke she could probably start for our basketball team, track team, swim team, she just has that natural ability to succeed at anything she does.”

Johnson and her sister, Chelsea, play for Nicolao with the Tigers. They have two older brothers, Blake and William, and one younger brother, Julius.

Their parents got divorced when Ashleigh was little, and Donna Johnson raised the kids mostly on her own. It’s a challenging juggling act not lost on her children.

“I mean she’s such a hard-working, loving and determined woman,” Ashleigh said, “and she’s taught me that hard work ethic and just to try my best at everything and love what I do.”

Chelsea Johnson, who joked that she followed her sister to Princeton because she didn’t want to play against her, said she sees similarities between Ashleigh and their mother.

“I think the biggest thing from her, she and Ashleigh, is that she’s always smiling, no matter what,” she said. “Like her and Ashleigh, not matter what they’re doing, no matter how hard the thing is, they’re always smiling and trying to make everyone around them feel better about whatever’s happening.”

VIDEO: Ashleigh Johnson stands out on U.S. water polo team