Fallout of Hue's doping controversy - Reggae Boyz confidence in medical staff nosedives

Published: Wednesday | January 1, 2014 Comments 0
Dr Carlton Fraser stoops next to a Reggae Boy during a Jamaica men's national senior football team training session at the University of the West Indies on Monday, March 18, 2013. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Dr Carlton Fraser stoops next to a Reggae Boy during a Jamaica men's national senior football team training session at the University of the West Indies on Monday, March 18, 2013. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer

PURE luck may have spared Jamaica embarrassment and possible punishment which could have decimated the national football squad during 2014 World Cup Qualifiers (WCQ).

Now the fallout from Jermaine Hue testing positive for a banned substance he received from a team doctor is eroding players' confidence in medical personnel assigned to them on national duty, with some admitting shock and loss of trust.

Multiple sources have confirmed that Hue was not the only player to receive intravenous fluids (IVs or drip) from Dr Carlton Fraser prior to Jamaica's June 11 WCQ in Honduras.

Hue tested positive for dexamethasone, a substance on the 2013 World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

But while Hue, an unused substitute, was reportedly treated for a specific ailment in Honduras, the reason given for him receiving the anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, it's still unclear how many other Boyz received IVs from Dr Fraser, and precisely what substance each was administered.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), its medical committee and Dr Fraser have not responded directly to questions about the incident submitted months ago.

Following teleconference meetings on September 26, Hue, one of two Boyz selected for urine sample screening post-match in Honduras, received a nine-month ban from football's governing body FIFA, which also suspended Dr Fraser for four years.

The second Jamaica player tested did not receive IVs and was cleared of any violation. But sources with knowledge of national team operations - administrators, players and medical personnel - revealed other members of Jamaica's 23-man squad were also given IVs by Dr Fraser in Honduras.

"More than 16," one source said.

"About 10," said another, who added 16 "might not be impossible".

An email sent to JFF's national team manager Roy Simpson in October sought specific answers relating to Dr Fraser's conduct, especially in Honduras. In November, Simpson indicated the questions had been forwarded to Dr Fraser. In response to a follow-up enquiry on December 13, Simpson said Dr Fraser "has been asked to forward all enquiries on the matter to the chairman of the (JFF's) Medical Committee".

When contacted by telephone on October 23, JFF Medical Committee chairman, Dr Guyan Arscott, said he was unable to answer questions about the Honduras incident at the time and offered an email address.

No reply has been received to questions sent to the address that day.

Meanwhile, sources in Jamaica's camp said doctors who have worked with the JFF expressed concern about Dr Fraser's methods. They claimed he did "not consistently" provide reports after the national team's overseas tours and that they had a "serious problem" with Dr Fraser administering IVs to players.

Some feared if more players had been tested in Honduras the results could possibly have been catastrophic.

"Maybe we were lucky," said a team official who, like many sources for this story, offered information only on condition they were not identified.

"... If they had tested more (than two) it could have been a big embarrassment for Jamaica, because several others got drip. Who knows how many players received the same substance like Hue."

Claiming "confidentiality rules", FIFA's Media Department declined to reveal details of Dr Fraser's case.

However, information obtained from the doctor's August 16 report to FIFA's Disciplinary Committee, which handed down the suspensions, stated Hue's urine sample "showed the presence of a therapeutic substance - dexamethasone - which was 'prohibitively administered' according to WADA's classification standards - as it applies to an intravenous (therapeutic) modality."

Dr Fraser defended his use of IVs to administer the corticosteroid, "absolving him (Hue) from any classified player's responsibility" and dismissing  "... the possibility of even harbouring the thought of enhancing performance".

Hue was the only player addressed in the report, but suspicion may have followed Jamaica to its next WCQ against Panama on September 6. Up to 10 Boyz may have been tested by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission leading up to that away game, sources revealed, possibly a direct result of the Honduras incident.

"Yes," said a JFF official. "I believe so."

Hue's positive test rattled fellow national players. Some, who admitted receiving IVs from Dr Fraser during their career, said confidence in the team's medical staff is low.

"I will not be taking anything from any one of them again," vowed an overseas-based player who was in Honduras, "unless it is cleared by my club".

Another, who was not in Honduras, said he and other players discussed the Hue test result and were "shocked".

"They (doctors) encourage you to take supplements all the time," the player said last month. "Right now I don't think any player would take anything from the medical staff."

JFF president, Captain Horace Burrell, acknowledged Dr Fraser's error in Honduras.

"... Some players were treated intravenously, and apparently that is not allowed," Burrell told reporters in July.

The guidelines

In August, Dr Arscott admitted, in a story published in The Star, that Dr Fraser "did not stick strictly to the stringent guidelines for prohibited substances".

If Dr Fraser failed to follow procedure, some local medical officials weren't surprised.

Dr Paul Wright, a former chairman of the JFF's Medical Committee, recalled a meeting several years ago, attended by members of the committee, where a complaint was made about Dr Fraser.

Dr Wright said Dr Arscott, who he claimed was present at the meeting, promised to probe the matter.

"What became of that investigation?" asked Dr Wright on October 24. "Was (the allegation) true, or was it not true?"

Dr Fraser joined the JFF medical team in 2007. His first stint with the seniors was in June 2009. Everyone interviewed for this story acknowledged Dr Fraser, nicknamed 'Pee Wee', was the team's physician of choice and would not intentionally risk players' reputation or livelihood.

"The coaches wanted him, the players wanted him, and the JFF approved of it," a JFF official said.

Still, there were concerns.

"He had his own ways of doing things and sometimes that was worrying," said one doctor who questioned Dr Fraser's knowledge of substances on WADA's Prohibited List.

However, sources said Dr Fraser always assured members of the JFF Medical Committee he operated in line with WADA's standards and that supplements or medication he gave players were "safe".

In his report to FIFA, Dr Fraser defended his own credibility.

"Never ignore that there are professionally certified personnel assigned to teams (of athletic/performers) who are of model integrity, who never entertain 'prohibitive or illegal' in their functional capacity," he wrote.

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