Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson make first comments since drug test revelations

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Jamaican Olympic sprint medalists Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson were shocked when they were told they had failed drug tests and have no plans to retire, they said in a group interview in Jamaica on Tuesday night.

Reuters and the Jamaica Gleaner (Wednesday’s front page pictured) were on hand at a law office in Kingston.

“I have never thought about it (retiring),” Powell said, according to the Gleaner. “I was just shocked by the news. I have been thinking a lot but never once thought about giving up.”

Two attorneys, their track club president and a publicist were also present. Simpson broke down in tears in the interview, according to the Gleaner.

Powell, the former world-record holder in the 100 meters, and Simpson, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the 100, said in statements on July 14 that they tested positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrine at the Jamaican national championships in June.

They are potentially facing many months, perhaps years in suspensions, pending “B” sample tests results.

Powell and Simpson declined to answer questions about their Canadian trainer Chris Xuereb, whom has been blamed by their agent and their track club.

An email from Xuereb’s account last week said he did not provide banned substances to the sprinters, who he said are “looking for a scapegoat.”

Powell, 30, said in Tuesday’s interview he will miss the world championships in August. Powell failed to qualify individually by finishing seventh at nationals, but he could have conceivably been picked for the 4×100 relay.

Simpson, 28, placed second at Jamaican nationals in the 100, qualifying for the world championships, but her worlds status was not addressed in the Reuters or Jamaica Gleaner stories. It would be surprising to see her compete in Moscow next month.

Simpson said she was “shocked” when she received a phone call in Madrid at 1:30 a.m. informing her of the test findings. Powell said he first heard the news at a hotel room in Italy.

“At first I thought it was joke, you know, I thought I was being pranked!” Powell said. “Because that was the first something like that has ever happened; I was confused after and just in disbelief.”

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Wrong anthem at medal ceremony leads winner to leave

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Belarus triple jumper Violetta Skvartsova smirked and eventually left the podium as the wrong anthem was played during her medal ceremony at the European U20 Track and Field Championships on Friday.

Skvartsova heard the Bosnian and Herzegovina anthem instead. Video is here.

Skvartosova said it was insulting, according to the Belarus track and field federation, which reported that organizers offered to hold the medal ceremony again.

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Katie Ledecky needs help to win 2 golds to open swimming worlds

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Katie Ledecky dominated to win her first gold of the world championships. She needed help for her second one.

Ledecky, possibly en route to a record-tying six gold medals at a single worlds, won the 400m freestyle in the second-fastest time in history in Budapest on Sunday.

An hour later, Ledecky swam the third leg of the U.S.’ 4x100m free relay that took gold by .29 over rival Australia. But Ledecky had the slowest split of the U.S. quartet by .67 (and 1.04 seconds slower than her split on the Rio Olympic silver-medal-winning team).

She needed help and got it from Mallory Comerford, who broke the American 100m free record leading off, and Kelsi Worrell and Olympic 100m free co-champion Simone Manuel. The U.S. women broke the American record in the event.

Five American records fell overall Sunday, including Caeleb Dressel breaking the men’s 100m free mark leading off the 4x100m free en route to gold (video here).

One world record came down, too. Sarah Sjostrom shattered the 100m free world record by .35 leading off the Swedish 4x100m free quartet that ultimately finished fifth.

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Earlier, Ledecky clocked 3:58.34 in the 400m free to win by 3.2 seconds over countrywoman Leah Smith. China’s Li Bingjie earned the bronze. Ledecky holds the nine fastest times ever, including the world record of 3:56.46 from Rio.

“There’s no disappointment,” Ledecky said of missing her world record by 1.88 seconds. “It’s a world championship gold medal. There’s nothing to complain about there.”

Ledecky, the quadruple 2016 Olympic champion, won her third straight world title in the 400m free and is now up to 11 world titles overall. She has four more races this week and is favored for gold in all of them.

She can tie Missy Franklin‘s female record of six golds from the 2013 Worlds. Michael Phelps won seven golds at the 2007 Worlds.

In other races Sunday, China’s Sun Yang won his third straight world 400m freestyle title, whooping Australian rival and Rio gold medalist Mack Horton by 2.47 seconds (video here).

Sun, 25, bagged his eighth individual world title, trailing only Ryan Lochte (10) and Phelps (15) on the all-time list.

In semifinals, Sjostrom was the top qualifier into Monday’s 100m butterfly final. While Sjostrom is the heavy favorite, Worrell qualified third into the final as she seeks a first individual major international meet medal.

Kevin Cordes broke his month-old American record in the 100m breaststroke semifinals with a 58.64. Olympic champion Adam Peaty was the fastest qualifier into Monday’s final in 57.75, followed by Cordes and Olympic bronze medalist Cody Miller (59.08).

Dressel broke the American record in the 50m butterfly semifinals, a non-Olympic event. Dressel took .15 off the old record by clocking 22.76 as the fastest qualifier into Monday’s final.

Rio gold medalist Katinka Hosszu began her quest to a possible four individual world titles by topping the 200m individual medley semifinals. Americans Melanie Margalis and Madisyn Cox join her in Monday’s final.

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