(Reuters) - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) blasted Jamaican anti-doping officials on Tuesday for the mishandling of a drug test by sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown that led to a successful appeal of the three-time Olympic gold medalist’s two year ban.
In a scathing 58-page report explaining the decision to uphold Campbell-Brown’s appeal, a CAS panel cited errors in the collection and handling of the sprinter’s urine sample last year that could have resulted in its contamination, calling into question the entire Jamaican anti-doping operation.
“In this case, the evidence before the panel establishes that the JAAA (Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association) has persistently failed to comply with the mandatory partial testing,” said CAS.
“That systematic and knowing failure, for which no reasonable explanation has been advanced, is deplorable and gives rise to the most serious concerns about the overall integrity of the JAAA’s anti-doping processes, as exemplified in this case by the flaws in JADCO’s (Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission) sample collection and its documentation.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), while concurring mistakes were made in Campbell-Brown’s case that were fundamental to the integrity of the testing process, said it was confident the errors would not be repeated.
“WADA responded to past concerns in Jamaica by initiating a partnership with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) to mentor and assist JADCO in developing their anti-doping programs,” the global agency said in a statement to Reuters.
“As a result, WADA is confident that such mistakes will not be repeated again.”
Jamaica’s anti-doping efforts underwent a major overhaul in late 2013, a year in which eight Jamaicans failed doping tests.
The entire JADCO board resigned and a new executive director was appointed and Jamaican athletics federation president Warren Blake said on Tuesday the problems were now in the past.
“This speaks to the situation that existed last year and the question was the use of partial sample kits,” Blake told Reuters. “My understanding is that JADCO does in fact have partial sample kits now....so there’s really not a problem.”
He also questioned why the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association was mentioned in the report when the testing was done by JADCO.
Noted coach Stephen Francis, whose athletes once included Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, recently called for Jamaican officials to disband their anti-doping agency and contract testing to agencies in other countries.
But Blake and Natalie Neita-Headley, the Jamaican minister responsible for sports, disagreed.
“Absolutely not,” Neita-Headley told Reuters. “With a sporting programme like ours, with the success we have attained; we need to have a anti-doping commission that works and that’s what we are working at.”
Said Blake: “Many things have changed with JADCO and I’m not going to be supporting taking our testing out of our country and giving it to strangers, certainly not.”
But doping concerns in the world’s top sprinting nation resurfaced last week when former 100 meters world record holder Powell and Simpson were banned for 18 months by a Jamaican panel after they tested positive for a banned stimulant in 2013.
Both have appealed their suspensions to CAS.
Olympic discus thrower Allison Randall, was also handed a two-year ban for using the prohibited diuretic hydrochlorothiazide.
Campbell-Brown also returned a positive test for hydrochlorothiazide at the Jamaica International Invitational meeting in Kingston on May 4 and in October was given a public reprimand by a JAAA disciplinary panel.
But after a doping review board of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) recommended a two-year doping ban, the Jamaican panel put the suspension in place in February.
Campbell-Brown appealed the ban, her lawyers arguing that international standards were violated during her sample collection, thus compromising the integrity of the samples.
The three member CAS panel agreed that serious errors were made in the collection process noting that Campbell-Brown took her partial sample with her in a covered, but unsealed, collection vessel and went to the waiting room where several other athletes were present.
It was noted that Campbell-Brown placed the sample on the floor while she went to collect more water and did various exercises in an effort to produce more urine.
CAS said the errors left open the possibility of Campbell-Brown’s sample being contaminated by water or sweat through the spout of the collection bottle.
“In this case, the evidence before the panel establishes that the JAAA has persistently failed to comply with the mandatory partial testing,” summed up the CAS report.
“The panel notes the contradictory explanations provided by the JADCO witnesses to the JAAA Disciplinary Panel in September 2013, which cause further concern about the reliability of the evidence adduced against the athlete.
“The panel’s assessment of the athlete’s testimony fortifies its conclusion that the evidence is insufficient to establish a doping violation to the requisite standard of proof.
“The panel concludes that the athlete’s appeal should be allowed on the ground that the panel is not comfortably satisfied that the athlete committed the charged anti-doping violation.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto and Kayon Raynor in Kingston, Jamaica; Editing by Gene Cherry