Rome

Athletics: Powell in Italian doping probe

Jamaican sprinter failed drugs test

Athletics: Powell in Italian doping probe

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, June 16 - Sprinter Asafa Powell, the former 100 metres world record holder, and fellow Jamaican athlete Sherone Simpson are being probed by Italian prosecutors for allegedly breaking Italy's anti-doping laws, along with a coach, Christopher Xuereb. Powell and Simpson were in Lignano Sabbiadoro in northeastern Italy at a training camp when it emerged on Sunday that they were among five athletes who had failed drugs tests at Jamaican national championship in June. Italian police raided the hotel rooms of Powell, Simpson and Xuereb, a Canadian, on Monday and seized foreign medicines and diet supplements as a precautionary measure. Investigators are set to run tests to see whether the material includes any banned substances. Doping is a criminal offence in Italy. The fact that Powell, Simpson and Xuereb are being probed does not necessarily mean charges will be presented against them. Powell and Simpson left Lignano on Tuesday, reportedly for Jamaica, and Xuereb departed late on Monday. All three were questioned by police before leaving. The news of the Jamaican tests came on the same day that it was announced world champion Tyson Gay of the United States tested positive for a banned substance in May, leaving athletics in a state of shock. Both the samples of Powell, a part of the Jamaican team that won the 4x100m relay gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and Simpson contained the banned amphetamine oxilofrine. Powell and Simpson, who are set to miss next month's world championships in Moscow, both belong to MVP track club, a rival stable in Jamaica to the Racers club of six-time Olympic sprint gold-medallist Usain Bolt. Powell frequently trains in Italy and has a strong bond with Italian fans. One of his finest moments was when he took the 100m world record down to 9.74 mark in September 2007 at an meeting in the central Italian city of Rieti, before Bolt exploded on the athletics scene. His positive test came as a surprise as he has always spoken out strongly against drugs use in the past. He said in a statement that he had never knowingly taken a performance-enhancing substance. "My team has launched an internal investigation and we are co-operating with the relevant agencies and law enforcement authorities to discover how the substance got in my system," he said. "I assure you we will find out how this substance passed our rigorous internal checks and balances and design systems to make sure it never happens again. "My attitude towards doping regulations and testing is well-known and I willingly give samples whenever requested. "This result has left me completely devastated in many respects. "I am reeling from this genuinely surprising result. "I accept the consequences that come with this finding - after all there is only one Asafa Powell. "My fault here however is not cheating but instead not being more vigilant. "I want to reiterate that in my entire career as an athlete I have never sought to enhance my performance with any substance. "It is not a part of who I am or what I believe in".

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