Kwesi Mugisa, Gleaner Writer
MVP head coach Stephen Francis has raised doubts as to whether circumstances leading to the return of a positive test for a banned substance by former 100m world-record holder Asafa Powell were not a deliberate attempt to lead the sprinter down the wrong path.
Powell, who was placed under investigation along with teammate Sherone Simpson and trainer Chris Xuereb yesterday, tested positive for the banned stimulant oxilofrine.
Since then, both himself and agent Paul Doyle have cast disapproving glances in the direction of Canadian trainer Xuereb, who was brought in to work with the athlete two months ago.
Doyle, however, has since stated that he believed the trainer and athlete to be unaware of what the substance contained. Francis is not entirely convinced.
"Is it deliberate? I am beginning to think that Asafa can thank his lucky stars that he got caught with this drug. By next year, it could have escalated to something much bigger," Francis told The Gleaner.
"I refuse to believe that this was a simple mistake. I can't buy that. It was too easy to find out about this guy and there were so many signs you could follow, without even knowing much, that said leave this guy alone."
While not excusing the sprinter, who he insists was cautioned about the trainer, Francis has thrown the majority of the blame squarely at the feet of Doyle, who he accused, along with Powell, of constantly looking to circumvent the rules of the club.
"I told him I did not want this person around my training sessions. I told him I don't trust people from Canada because they are usually quacks. The person who he says recommended this guy is not good. I told him we would find someone else. The Canadians have a bad reputation," Francis said.
"He was at Asafa's house, brought to Jamaica by Doyle. I cannot understand how this was done without the reputation and background of this guy being unveiled. To me, the big question is why did he send this person, who I am told is a disciple of Dr (Anthony) Galea, who was himself banned from the USA for taking drugs across the border. How could this person have been sent to live at Asafa's house? How can a manager get away with behaviour like this?" Francis added.
Xuereb is reported to have been a long-time employee of a Toronto sports medicine clinic operated by Galea, a prominent Canadian sports doctor with somewhat of a chequered past.
In 2009, The New York Times and The Associated Press reported that the physician was the subject of investigation for allegedly providing elite athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, in addition to criminal conspiracy. He was arrested in Toronto on October 15, 2009, but never faced charges.
In July 6, 2011, Galea pleaded guilty to bringing into the United States mislabelled drugs for the purpose of treating professional athletes. He was sentenced to one year unsupervised, and no accompanying jail time, and not allowed to enter the United States without the express permission from the US Homeland Security.
Francis claims the agent's (Doyle) pattern had become a worrying trend of unwanted interference into the athlete's programme, watched closely by the coach, particularly over the last three years.
"It is a broader pattern from Doyle over the last couple years. He has sought to insert himself into Asafa's programme. Last year, he took Asafa away for nearly two weeks, nobody could find him," Francis said.
"... He was supposed to show up at camp, nobody saw or heard from him. It is the same sort of behaviour that he has been encouraging Asafa, or vice versa, to circumvent the rules, the same rules that took Asafa to where he is, or was."