Two Jamaicans winning the most prestigious awards in track and field did not come and go without more talk of Jamaica’s drug-testing program.
Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, both triple gold medalists at the World Championships in August, swept the IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards announced in Monaco on Saturday.
Bolt, 27, beat out British distance runner Mo Farah and Ukraine high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko to win for the fifth time in six years. He’s the only man or woman to win the award more than three times. It’s been awarded annually since 1988.
“I know track and field’s been through a lot, but I see a lot of positive things coming out,” said Bolt, who also signed 10 copies of his recently released book in 24 seconds before receiving his award. “(To the athletes), show the world that we can do this, and we can make athletics a better place.”
Fraser-Pryce, 26, won over New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams and Czech 400m hurdler Zuzana Hejnova. She’s the first Jamaican woman since Merlene Ottey in 1990 to win the award.
“There is a little question on the men’s side because Usain wasn’t the usual Usain, and I think he does have some very good competition from Bondarenko,” NBC Olympics track and field analyst Ato Boldon told the Jamaica Gleaner before the awards. “I said in the stadium at the world champs that if there was an award for best track and field athlete overall, it would go to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, that’s how good I think her performance was.”
News before the announcement at the World Athletics Gala centered on drug testing.
In August, it was reported that Jamaica’s anti-doping agency carried out one out-of-competition drug test in the five months leading into the 2012 Olympics.
In October, the World Anti-Doping Agency visited Jamaica to investigate its anti-doping setup and said it was “satisfied” that Jamaica’s minister of sport “accepted the practical suggestions” WADA made.
WADA said it’s asked Kenya to perform an independent investigation of its anti-doping system for the past 18 months, but it has not seen evidence that it has been carried out.
IAAF president Lamine Diack defended Jamaican and Kenyan athletes in Monaco on Saturday.
“I read in the newspapers and it was like a campaign against Jamaica, and I think it was ridiculous,” Diack said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. “They are the most tested athletes in the world.
“And so I read in the newspapers how WADA are going there and they are going to suspend (Jamaica from the Olympics), they cannot suspend anybody!
“It was ridiculous, this campaign. After Jamaica they went to Kenya because some doctor went there and said the Kenyan athletes are not controlled. They are the most controlled. Six hundred fifty or so athletes in Kenya controlled every time in and out of competition. They went there, what did they find, nothing.”
Fraser-Pryce has threatened not to compete if the Jamaican federation doesn’t do more to support its athletes.
Bolt, too, had a say, with his Twitter account linking to the Gleaner article with Diack’s comments on Twitter.
Bolt may have been spurred because he lost a would-be big-money sponsorship deal due to Jamaica’s drug-testing issues, according to the Telegraph.
“A sponsor came up to us and was saying, ‘We’d like to sponsor you,'” he said, according to the newspaper. “They then used an agency that does background checks to figure out if it’s viable to sponsor you and it came back that WADA had said that I would not be eligible to run at the next Olympics.
“That information is not correct, so there are a lot of things that are going on with this drugs thing that I really feel they need to clarify because, for me, it’s causing problems for me when it comes to making money from my sport.”