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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Tony Azevedo retires after 5 Olympics in water polo

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Tony Azevedo of the USA in action during the USA vs Italy Waterpolo group match at Julio de Lamare Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
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Tony Azevedo is ending one of the greatest water polo careers in U.S. history, retiring after a record five Olympics at age 35.

Azevedo, the first American to play in five Olympic water polo tournaments, said it was a tough decision but a necessary one to spend time with his family — wife Sara and two kids, according to the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.

“The traveling and everything for them would be too much,” said Azevedo, who has a 3-year-old boy and a girl born after the Rio Olympics. “It’s time.”

Azevedo was a teenage prodigy dubbed the “Kobe Bryant of water polo.” A ball boy at the 1996 Olympics, Azevedo made a list of about 13 goals as a “slow, fat, chubby kid” who wanted to start on his high school team.

He reached all of those goals except for one — a gold medal. Azevedo made his Olympic debut out of high school in 2000 and then helped lead the U.S. to silver at Beijing 2008, his lone Olympic or world championships medal in 13 combined appearances. He led the U.S. in goals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

“If anyone asks, am I going to miss the swimming? No. Am I going to miss the games? No. Are you going to miss the Olympics? No,” Azevedo said. “I’m going to miss those days of grinding with your teammates.”

Azevedo was one of the top U.S. stories of the Rio Olympics, since he was born in the Brazilian city and lived there for 23 days before moving to Southern California. Azevedo, whose father was a Brazilian national team member, played for a Sao Paulo club team for much of the past Olympic cycle.

The U.S. went 2-3 in Rio, failing to advance out of group play.

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MORE: PyeongChang 2018 daily schedule highlights

Five takeaways from World Alpine Skiing Championships

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Five thoughts after an unpredictable world alpine skiing championships, looking ahead to the Olympics … 

1. Expect Mikaela Shiffrin to be busier in PyeongChang

Shiffrin chose not to enter the super-G or super combined in the first week at worlds, in order to maximize her medal potential in the giant slalom and slalom in the final weekend. It paid off with silver and gold medals.

It seems unlikely that Shiffrin adopts the same, two-race slate in PyeongChang. The 2018 Olympic schedule has the giant slalom and slalom in the first week, followed by the speed events of super-G, downhill and super combined.

Consider also Shiffrin’s mindset going into St. Moritz.

“Right now, I’m going with [only giant slalom and slalom] because I just don’t think that I have quite enough experience in speed [events] to be able to count on winning a medal in those events yet,” she said. “But by the time we go to South Korea next year, maybe I could. I might be in a position where I can at least be in contention for medals in giant slalom, slalom, combined, super-G and maybe even downhill, only because nobody’s ever skied on that track before.”

The women get their first look at the 2018 Olympic venue with World Cup races in two weeks, a downhill and super-G. Shiffrin said before worlds that she planned to travel to South Korea for training but to leave before the races start. She wanted to prioritize the following week’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

What’s for sure is we can learn plenty about Shiffrin’s Olympic potential in speed events this weekend. She’s set to race at the World Cup stop in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, which is made up of two combineds and a super-G.

If Shiffrin enters all three events, it will bring her career World Cup start total in downhill, super-G and combined up to 10 races. Her best finish in her first seven starts was fourth in a super-G last month.

“I have a lot of goals there,” Shiffrin said of speed events after bagging her third straight slalom world title Saturday. “Hopefully, some day, I’d like to win in super-G and downhill, but I think it’ll take some time before I can do that consistently. It’s definitely a long road from here. I still feel like I just started.”

2. Lindsey Vonn must heal

Vonn made it clear at worlds that she wasn’t 100 percent recovered from breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Her right hand movement was so limited that she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail, let alone comfortably grip a ski pole at 75 miles per hour.

After skiing out of the opening super-G, troubled by that hand, she duct-taped her glove to her ski pole, placed fifth in the super combined and third in the downhill. She said the bronze medal felt like gold given her latest injury comeback.

Vonn became the oldest woman to earn a world championships medal. In PyeongChang, she can become the oldest woman to earn an Olympic Alpine medal.

Vonn’s biggest hurdle is her own health. A smooth finish to the season, regardless of wins, and a normal offseason is key.

“I want to be in a position at the Olympics where I’m at my top form not just struggling to kind of make it back into the mix,” Vonn said, according to The Associated Press. “It’s a different ballgame when I’m prepared.”

3. U.S. lacks young stars

Worlds went about to form for the entire U.S. team. Shiffrin and Vonn were the only medalists. No man placed in the top 10 for the first time since 1997.

Injuries and, especially, aging are the concerns.

Four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso, out since November 2015 hip surgery, was on the team but didn’t enter any events. The top U.S. men on the World Cup in recent seasons, Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman, went out with season-ending injuries in January. Bode Miller, who has trained but not raced this season, was in the NBC Sports commentary booth.

All of them are 32 years and older. Maybe some summon one last Olympic medal surge next year, but what about after that?

Shiffrin is the only American younger than age 28 who owns a World Cup victory. U.S. men earned Youth Olympic and junior worlds gold medals last year, but they look destined for 2022.

4. Marcel Hirscher approaches Austrian legends

Hirscher was the best skier in St. Moritz, despite reportedly spending days in bed before his first race. He earned two golds and missed a third by .01 in the super combined.

Only Tony Sailer owns more individual world titles among Austrian men. Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season, which no man from any country has accomplished.

He’s at 43 World Cup wins, 11 shy of the Austrian men’s mark held by Hermann Maier. At 27 years old, Hirscher ought to eclipse it.

But Hirscher’s résumé has a gaping hole — no Olympic gold medal. He was upset in the Sochi Olympic slalom by countryman Mario Matt. And there’s no certainty Hirscher will be a favorite in PyeongChang.

For years, he was the world’s second-best giant slalom skier behind the now-injured Ligety, who could reclaim the throne next season, though that is a tall order.

In slalom, young Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen has been neck and neck with Hirscher but had a poor worlds.

The super combined is the most unpredictable event, but even there Frenchman Alexis Pinturault has won six of the 11 World Cup races since 2013.

5. Surprises in St. Moritz

Most races provided surprise medalists.

In all five men’s events, either the gold or silver medalist had not won a World Cup race in at least two years (or, in three cases, never made a World Cup podium). Women’s medalists in downhill, super-G, giant slalom and the super combined had never won a World Cup race.

New names were going to emerge regardless, considering the list of recent stars not racing (retired Tina Maze, Ligety, Miller, Aksel Lund Svindal) and those who did compete but were slowed or forced out by injury (Vonn, Anna Veith, Gut).

More surprises could be in store in PyeongChang given, as Shiffrin said, it’s a new track for everybody.

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