Olympic sprinter suspended
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Veronica Campbell-Brown’s agent insists one of the cornerstones of Jamaica’s wide-ranging sprint success "is not a cheat," even though the test results disagree.
While her case is being decided, the three-time Olympic gold medalist will sit out and her country will try to make sense of one of its longest-held fears: a high-profile track star getting busted for doping.
Campbell-Brown, or "VCB" as she’s simply known in sprinting circles, tested positive for a banned diuretic at a meet in May and will serve a suspension while anti-doping officials rule on the positive drug test, island track officials announced Tuesday.
After days of swirling rumors, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association said the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion at 200 meters was suspended from competition while a disciplinary panel reviews the case. They said the matter is being handled according to rules of track’s international governing body, the IAAF.
Warren Blake, president of the JAAA, said Campbell-Brown voluntarily withdrew herself from competition and accepted a provisional suspension, which means she’ll miss this week’s national championships in Kingston.
Campbell-Brown’s manager, Claude Bryan, said the accusation came as a "shock to her" and the 31-year-old champion is determined to clear her name.
"Veronica is not a cheat, she has, via hard work and dedication, accomplished a record on the track which is absolutely remarkable," Bryan said in a statement.
He said Campbell-Brown will not speak publicly during the disciplinary process in Jamaica but does not accept "guilt of willfully taking a banned substance." Bryan said she is apologizing to her fans, sponsors and others for any embarrassment or hurt this "devastating news has caused."
Growing up in the same parish as Jamaica’s biggest track star, Usain Bolt, Campbell-Brown has long been considered one of the glamour runners in a country that produced enough talent to win 28 medals over the past three Olympics -- 12 last year, 11 in 2008 and five in 2004. The 2008 haul included Campbell-Brown’s defense of her 2004 title in the 200 meters. Campbell-Brown also won gold in the 4x100 relay at the Athens Games.
Dr. Herb Elliott, chairman of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission, told The Associated Press that he believes Campbell-Brown’s ‘B’ sample was returned Tuesday. He said the banned substance found in Campbell-Brown’s samples at the Jamaica International Invitational in May -- a meet sanctioned by IAAF -- was a diuretic. He declined to provide the name of the substance.
Jamaican authorities will make public whatever comes out of the disciplinary hearings in coming days, Elliott said.
He said he was shocked when he heard Campbell-Brown’s name associated with doping.
"I have known her over the years and she has always been scrupulous," Elliott said. "There are others I’ve had suspicions about, but not her."
But, Elliott insisted, "We have nothing to hide. I want to know how we’re getting positive tests if we’re not testing, as some people insist."
Indeed, the debate over the rigor of Jamaica’s anti-doping program has raged for more than a decade, as the island nation of 2.7 million has consistently racked up more medals in track and field than countries 10 times its size.
The news that she tested positive shocked many on the island, where she has been a beloved figure for over a decade.
"I just can’t believe that she would do that after all the medals she’s won," said Paulette Williams, at a bustling vegetable and fruit market in the capital of Kingston. "Maybe somebody slipped something in her drink."
"It’s a shame because now all these doping people overseas are going to be pointing fingers at Jamaica, even more than they do already," said Lloyd Mark, as he walked by a track named after Bolt at Jamaica’s campus of the University of the West Indies.
Glen Mills, who coaches both Bolt and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake, said on Radio Jamaica: "As coach of some of the leading athletes, we’ll be doing everything to ensure this type of thing does not happen. At the same time, we should not walk with our heads down."
The news swirled beyond the island, into the United States, where that country’s top athletes are getting ready for their national championships this week. American sprinter Tyson Gay, who described Campbell-Brown as an old friend, said he was convinced the positive test must be due to some sort of mistake.
"We’re all accountable for what goes in our system or what goes in our body. But at the same time, sometimes mistakes do happen," Gay told AP, adding that he texted Campbell-Brown the other day and she was devastated at the news.
Campbell-Brown grew up in the yam-growing parish of Trelawny - the same area of northwest Jamaica where Bolt grew up. She got her start racing barefoot against the boys in her rural hometown. She soon was blowing past tougher competition, winning the 100 and 200 at the World Youth Games in 2000, then helping the Jamaican 400-meter relay team to a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as an 18-year-old.
Four years later in Athens, she beat American Allyson Felix for the gold in the 200 and then helped the 400 relay to another gold. She beat Felix again in 2008 for another gold in the 200.
Back then, rumors floated that Beijing would be her last Olympics. But she dismissed that as speculation.
"If I’m still running really fast, even if I’m 30, why retire?" she responded at the time. "The pace I’m running will determine when I retire."
In 2012, she returned to the Olympics and won bronze in the 100 meters and was part of the silver medal 4x100 relay team.
AP writer Pat Graham contributed to this story from Des Moines, Iowa.
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