Monte Carlo, Monaco – A raft of Olympic and world champions have lamented the “disappointing” doping scandal that has gripped track and field after top sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell failed tests.
The duo's positive A samples were revealed last week, plunging the sport into crisis and turning the focus onto banned substances just three weeks away from the August 10-18 world championships in Moscow.
“It's a shame you have to talk about it, comment on it, have an opinion on it because you can be quite close to these athletes at the same time,” said Australia's world and Olympic 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson.
Seemingly too close for Gay and Powell's respective teammates Carmelita Jeter and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the female sprinting duo feistily refusing to entertain questions on doping and eventually storming out of their joint press conference.
Pearson, however, praised the crackdown on doping and stressed that the bottom line for athletes was personal responsibility.
“It's disappointing that these things happen, but it's good that Wada or whatever doping agency is keeping on top of the athletes.
“We like to compete cleanly and fairly.”
“You've just got to keep going and working hard and being really diligent about what goes into your body and who you trust.”
World and Olympic triple jump gold medallist Christian Taylor, a teammate of Gay's on the US team, added: “It's unfortunate for the sport that we even have to discuss it.
“From a sports standpoint we don't want it... But it's good to have these organisations to stay on top of things.”
Taylor added: “You want a clean field, a fair field. It shows there's someone on top of it. Having organisations like Usada or Wada you know there's always someone watching.”
Up-and-coming American high jump star Brigetta Barrett, Olympic silver medallist in the London Games, said it was “always shocking when your 'heroes' have fallen”.
“You don't expect these people to have positive tests,” she said, calling for a better distribution of finances among athletes to close the gap “that causes possible desperation”.
She also called for athletics' world governing body to open up opportunities for increased personal sponsorship, a thing the IAAF outlaws in the “clean canvas” deals it offers its main heavyweight sponsors.
The last word went to Gay's controversial teammate Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion who went on to serve a four-year doping ban and came back to claim Olympic bronze last year, much to the dismay of his many critics.
“It never crossed my mind that they were doping,” he said of the failed tests of his sprint rivals.
“You have to keep it basic in regard to who's around you, who you trust, who's in your inner circle.
“You have to make sure you're responsible for what's going into your body.” – Sapa-AFP