OLYMPIC gold medal winning former sprinter Darren Campbell fears that spectators will abandon athletics following the latest doping controversies to afflict the sport.
American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell, respectively the fastest man this year and the former 100m world record holder, are the latest stars to return positive drug tests.
Campbell believes Gay and Powell may only be guilty of unwittingly taking banned substances, as the pair have suggested, but admits to being heartbroken at the damage being done to athletics’ reputation.
“I think the general public has a perception that the majority of sprinters are doing something, and obviously when it’s two out of the top four [fastest men in history] it’s a difficult one to argue,” Campbell told City A.M.
“The biggest thing I feel is that ultimately it will end up damaging the whole sport and people will choose not to watch it anymore.
“Not many will forget the pictures from London 2012: Usain Bolt winning the 100m, celebrating with Mo Farah. Athletics has a very important part to play in the development of sportspeople. It’s the purest of all sports, and one that you’ll do first in school. So it’s just bitterly disappointing.”
Campbell, who won 4x100m gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics, says athletes taking supplements can be duped in the same way as shoppers in the horsemeat scandal.
Concerns about unreliable products prompted the 39-year-old to set up his own sports nutrition brand, Pro Athlete Supplementation, with British and Irish Lions nutritionist Jon Williams.
“It doesn’t make it right in any way, but they could have purchased something that didn’t have that particular product on the label, and they thought it was safe,” he added.
“What happened here, potentially – we don’t know – is no different to what happened with the horsemeat scandal. Nobody knew they were buying horse; we just purchased it in good faith from companies that we trusted.
“Not every sportsperson has systematically gone out to try and cheat – it could be that they got caught up in a company not using the right code of practice. It is strict liability, so ultimately you’re left as the person who will take all the flak.”
Sportswear giant Adidas yesterday suspended its contract with Gay, while Italian police have raided the hotel where Powell and women’s former 4x100m relay Olympic champion Sherone Simpson, who also tested positive at last month’s Jamaican championships, were staying during a training camp.
SPRINTING’S SHAME: WORLD’S BEST TAINTED
FIVE of the official eight fastest times ever recorded over 100m have been by sprinters who have tested positive for a banned substance during their careers. The following times stand, however, since there is no evidence that the men responsible were cheating when they clocked them.
Tyson Gay – 9.69 seconds
■ On Sunday, Gay admitted testing positive for an unnamed banned substance and pulled out of next month’s World Championships in Moscow. The American said his positive test was an “accident” and that he placed trust in the wrong person.
Yohann Blake – 9.69 seconds
■ The London 2012 silver medallist in the 100m and 200m had previously been banned for three months in 2009. He tested positive for a substance not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list, but the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission felt it was similar in structure to prohibited tuaminoheptane and that a ban would be appropriate.
Asafa Powell – 9.72 seconds
■ The Jamaican, formerly the world’s fastest man, has protested his innocence after testing positive for the stimulant oxilofrine. Powell said on Sunday that he unknowingly had the substance in his system and vowed to clear his name.
Justin Gatlin – 9.79 seconds
■ American Gatlin served a four-year ban, after testing positive in 2006 for testosterone “or its precursor”. He also had a personal best time of 9.77 seconds, set in May 2006, annulled.
Steve Mullings – 9.80 seconds
■ Is serving a lifetime ban from athletics after testing positive for a masking agent, furosemide, following Jamaican national trials in 2011. Mullings was also banned for two years in 2004 after testing positive for methytestosterone. The 30-year-old lost an appeal against his life ban earlier this year.