måndag 28 september 2009

Doping saga huge setback for Brooks

Brooks (above) was stunned, cried, refused to train ... her coach Marlon Malcolm said. The management of Sheri-Ann Brooks is confident the Jamaican sprinter will rebound from the devastation of missing last month's IAAF World Championships in Athletics (WCA), while battling a charge of banned substance use, to defend her Commonwealth Games 100 metres title next year.
According to close associates, Brooks was emotionally and physically drained by a sequence of events which began after she was notified she had tested positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine during Jamaica's trials. Although eventually cleared, she was not allowed her to compete at the WCA in Berlin, Germany, and eventually shut down the remainder of her 2009 season.
That decision did not spare Brooks damage to her reputation and loss of earning. However, according to her agent Kris Mychasiw, the "step back" should not prevent the sprinter from returning to the track early in 2010 for the indoor season and later in the year for the Commonwealth Games in India if she qualifies.
"There's no reason she should quit," Mychasiw said last Wednesday while dismissing speculation that the 26-year-old sprinter was pondering retirement from the sport. "She's going to go for (the Commonwealth Games gold) again."
Mychasiw said Brooks was invited to run at several post-WCA meets, including the lucrative mid-September IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final, but the sprinter declined, choosing instead to re-group from the doping saga.
"She was crazy stressed," Mychasiw said.
"She told me that she was losing hair," the agent added. " ... She wasn't physically and mentally ready to race. She said, 'I think we should just call it a season'."
According to her coach, Jamaican Marlon Malcolm, the United States-based Brooks received a telephone call the day before a late July meet in Europe informing her of the positive test. The coach said Brooks, who through her agent declined to be interviewed for this story, was "stunned", cried, refused to train and wanted to withdraw from the meet.
"That was very hard for her," Malcolm said on Monday. " ... We couldn't practise ... We couldn't do anything, basically."
The toll lingered well beyond Brooks' return to Jamaica shortly after for a procession of disciplinary hearings and appeals which began on August 5.
"The damage was very high," said Malcolm. "Contracts gone down the drain. Money that could be made in the Worlds and also other meets also gone down the drain. Stopping her from running means wages lost and individuals are looking at her differently now."
Both Malcolm and Mychasiw insisted Brooks had been taking the same supplements for the past four years, which the agent claimed was checked by him to ensure they did not violate any International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) or World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules.
Methylhexanamine is not on WADA's banned list, which originally led to Brooks and four other athletes who tested positive for the stimulant at the trials being cleared of wrongdoing by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission's (JADCO) Disciplinary Panel. However, JADCO, which took the urine samples at the trials, appealed the panel's decision, arguing that the stimulant had a similarchemical make-up to a substance banned by WADA.
But according to Malcolm, Brooks had been tested three times in Europe during the month and half immediately before Jamaica's trials, where on June 27 she finished third in the 100 metres, behind eventual WCA champion Shelly-Ann Fraser and silver medallist Kerron Stewart, to make Jamaica's team. The most recent test, he said, was done about two weeks before the meet at the National Stadium. Malcolm said Brooks was also tested in Europe in the weeks immediately following the trials. At no time, he explained, was she notified she had tested positive for any banned substance or that she was being investigated for banned substance use.
"None of them," the coach said.
The result from the test of her first or 'A' sample, Malcolm said, therefore came as a shock to the Brooks camp.
"I have no explanation," he said. "I strongly believe it was a mistake."
Brooks, as is her right, requested in writing that JADCO arrange to test a 'B' or second urine sample. Dr. Patrece Charles-Freeman, JADCO's executive director, said that letter asked for information about a "hearing", but did not state specifically that either Brooks or her representative needed to be present for the 'B' sample test, which is also the athlete's right under WADA code. The local agency authorised the Montreal, Canada-based testing laboratory to use another representative.
"If the athlete does not inform JADCO that they intend to be there, or that they intend to send a representative, then JADCO can request the lab assign a surrogate witness," Dr Charles-Freeman said on Tuesday.
Mychasiw, who said he is based in Montreal just minutes drive from the lab, insisted he was prepared to represent Brooks at the 'B' sample testing, but was not notified.
"Of course, I would have been there," he said.
Both Mychasiw and Malcolm claimed they first learned of the 'B' sample testing from JADCO's disciplinary hearing. The JADCO Appeals Tribunal cleared Brooks of the doping charge because neither she nor her representative was present at the testing.
"We were unable to impose a sanction on her, as there was an irregularity with the testing of the B sample that was raised by her counsel," Kent Gammon, JADCO's head of the disciplinary committee, explained in published statements. "Therefore, we were unable to conclude that she was guilty of an offence."
Meanwhile, Brooks's associates admitted that the doping saga was a huge setback for the athlete. Mychasiw said meet directors in Europe are willing to invite Brooks to compete. But Malcolm accused JADCO of "incompetence" and "ruining" Brooks's reputation.
"They ruptured their names on the circuit at the athletes' expense," he said.
But Dr Charles-Freeman brushed aside the coach's claims.
"I do not have to respond to Mr Malcolm," she said. " .. It think it is pointless."
Malcolm is also unhappy that the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA) did not allow Brooks to compete at the WCA.
"They should have allowed her to run the 100," the coach argued. " ... A lot of athletes compete at the Worlds who are under investigation."
Mychasiw conceded that Brooks' reputation won't easily be repaired on the circuit.
"It comes with a shadow," he said of the doping saga.
However, he believes Brooks is willing to close that chapter.
"She is angry at how things transpired, but she's not holding any grudges," Mychasiw said. "She's ready to move on."
But the agent is still waiting to receive official correspondence from JADCO indicating Brooks was cleared. The four other athletes, who also tested positive for the stimulant at the trials, have been officially banned by Jamaica, although their cases were heard after Brooks'. Mychasiw said he needs the documentation for his records.
"Just something simple, so we have it on file," the agent said. "One page, one
paragraph, is all we wanted."
It would, he added, put an official cap on Brooks's disastrous - and abrupt - 2009 season and possibly work as a launching pad for next year, which includes October's Commonwealth Games in India.
"It's been a long mountain to climb," said Mychasiw on behalf of his client, "but sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward."

Saturday September 26, 2009
Published: Sunday | September 27, 2009/Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer

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