17 Jul 2013

Coach defends Jamaican sprinters

8:17 am on 17 July 2013

The coach of the Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson says the Olympic medallists are not to blame for their failed drug tests.

Stephen Francis has told journalists at the Jamaican team's hotel in north-east Italy he believes the news has come as a shock to the athletes, and he criticised their Canadian trainer Chris Zuereb who's also being investigated by Italian police.

Francis says over the 10 years he's been coaching Powell, he's had great difficulty getting him to take even basic stuff like protein and vitamins.

Italian media are reporting that a military police health protection unit had seized about 50 boxes during a search of the Jamaican team's hotel and would be analysing the contents to see if they contained any banned substances.

The police have opened a doping investigation against Powell and and Simpson, as the athletes blamed their physiotherapist after they failed drugs tests.

The pair, who tested positive for a banned stimulant, were training in northeast Italy but have now left the country after a police raid on their hotel, while physiotherapist Xuereb, who is similarly under investigation, has also left Italy.

The development came after both athletes pointed to contaminated food supplements as the reason why they failed the dope tests, which have cast a cloud over the build-up to the athletics world championships in Moscow next month and put sprinting in the spotlight.

Powell, a 100 metre relay gold medallist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is one of the four fastest men in history.

News of his positive test emerged on Monday with a separate positive test for US sprinter Tyson Gay.