Jamaica sprinter Sherone Simpson faces disciplinary panel

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Olympic sprinter Sherone Simpson testified before a Jamaican disciplinary panel on Tuesday that she never intentionally took a banned substance and blamed her positive doping test on a newly-hired trainer who provided her with supplements.

Before a three-member panel of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission, the Olympic 4×100-relay gold and silver medalist insisted she was not a "cheat." She testified that she believed a supplement provided by trainer Christopher Xuereb of Canada was responsible for her positive test.

Simpson, along with former 100-meter world record holder Asafa Powell, tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrone at the sprinting powerhouse’s national championships in June. Discus throwers Allison Randall and Travis Smikle, along with a junior athlete, also tested positive for banned substances at the same meet.

At Jamaica’s June championships, Simpson said she was still being bothered by a nagging hamstring injury but was in "fairly good shape." She had just recently begun working with Xuereb, a trainer who she testified she first spoke to on May 16 and worked with at Powell’s house in Kingston on the same day.

"I trusted Chris," she told the panel. "I invited Chris into my very small circle."

Simpson said that one of six supplements provided by Xuereb was responsible for her "devastating" positive test. She said she researched the "Epiphany D1" supplement for up to 14 hours online before starting to take it and "nothing I read raised a red flag or an alarm bell." The sprinter acknowledged that she did not disclose the new supplement on doping control forms.

Xuereb has said he didn’t give Simpson and Powell any performance-enhancing drugs and only purchased major brand vitamins. In July, he told The Associated Press that "both athletes are clearly looking for a scapegoat."

Lester Robinson, a lawyer who cross-examined Simpson for Jamaica’s anti-doping agency, contended that she was "significantly negligent" in taking a new supplement without first consulting with a doctor or anti-doping and athletics officials.

Robinson noted that she testified that she was on seven supplements prior to meeting Xuereb in May, saying "there is not sufficient evidence to support the respondent’s assertion regarding the source of the prohibited substance."

Simpson testified that she heard about her positive test in July while at a Jamaican training camp in the northern Italian resort town of Lignano Sabbiadoro and phoned her agent Paul Doyle, who also represents Powell. Simpson testified that Doyle said they needed to contact the World Anti-Doping Agency and a raid of the hotel was quickly organized.

Supplements were seized and the two sprint stars and Xuereb were formally placed under criminal investigation in Italy following the hotel raid. Simpson testified that she spent about three hours at the police station in Lignano and has cooperated with investigators.

Simpson’s hearing before the disciplinary panel is expected to last at least two days. Her case is being held publicly at a conference center in Kingston, unlike those for three-time Olympic gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown, who received a public warning by a Jamaican panel in October after closed-door hearings following a positive test for a banned diuretic.

Powell and Doyle, both listed as witnesses in Simpson’s case, are also attending the hearings this week. Powell is expected to face another disciplinary panel next week.

Jamaica’s anti-doping program was audited late last year by WADA after a former Jamaica director alleged it didn’t drug-test its athletes for entire months before they dazzled at the 2012 London Olympics. In November, all 12 board members of JADCO resigned amid questions about drug testing on the island.