Athletics

Dissecting the Nesta Carter guilty verdict

Sunday, June 17, 2018

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Nesta Carter, along with teammates Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Michael Frater, competed in the 4x100m relay at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and set a world record.

Three medals in Beijing along with three medals each in London and Rio brought Usain Bolt on par with the American Carl Lewis in winning nine gold medals in three consecutive Olympics.

Eight years after the world record performance, Nesta Carter's doping control samples taken in Beijing were retested in 2016 and found to contain the stimulant methylhexamine, a specified substance.

Methylhexamine is said to be structurally and biologically similar to tauaminoheptane(S6.b). Tauaminoheptane, also a specified substance, not methylhexamine was on the 2008 WADA banned list. Athletes are allowed to use specified substances when they are not competing or out of competition. Athletes are sanctioned only if specified substances are found in their samples during competition. All countries sign that certain athletes in the registered pool (elite athletes) can be tested in and out of competition.

All countries which are signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code, including Jamaica, are required to adhere to the International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI), and by extension testing and identification of samples by whatever current and or past test WADA deems appropriate. Tauaminoheptane is prohibited in competition and also its isomer or mirror image; methylhexamine, by the structurally and biologically classification clause in the specified substance section of the WADA code. What this means is tauaminoheptane and methylhexamine are substances that are deemed to have the same molecular formula but differ in the way their atoms are arranged, what we would call chemical cousins.

Carter, therefore, was deemed to have violated article 2.1.1: The presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in an athlete's sample. Whether Carter had advertently or inadvertently used something with methylhexamine, which was not on the banned list in 2008, is irrelevant to his case because 2.1.1 states that an athlete is responsible for a prohibited substance, marker or metabolites present in his or her sample. Methylhexamine, though not on the list in 2008, was classified as a 'cousin' of tauaminoheptane which was on the list in 2008. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or deliberate use by the athlete be proven in order to establish an anti-doping rule violation.

I posit article 2.1.1 does not apply in Carter's case. This is why I am annoyed at Carter and his team. First he appeared at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing hiding under a hoody as if he did something gravely wrong and was hiding his face in shame. Next it was reported in the Jamaica Observer, and I quote part of his statement:

“Even though I must take responsibility for what has happened, it is difficult to accept that I could be in breach of the rules when, even if I had known I consumed the substance (which I did not), I could not have known at the time that the substance was prohibited.” Nesta, I do not feel you ingested the substance, but based on your iterations you are confusing people like me who believe in your innocence. In another part of your statement in the Observer you stated:

“The substance that was in my body is now recognised as having been a contaminant in many products and as CAS accepts, it was not named on the Prohibited List in 2008 and only became known after the 2008 Olympic Games.”

What substance was in your body? Methylhexamine/Tauaminoheptane is not a threshold substance meaning if present in whatever amount, you must be sanctioned. They did not find it in 2008 when they tested your sample and it is not a threshold substance or 'minimal amount in sample substance' like salbutamol. I posit if it was present in your body in 2008, you would have tested positive then in 2008. The World Anti-Doping Agency and Court for the Arbitration of Sport know that the sample containers that they thought were tamper-proof are not.

They sanctioned Russia for the tampering of sample containers long after Beijing. There was a debacle with the anti-doping lab in Beijing and the doping control process for Rio in 2016. Electron microscopy proved to them beyond a doubt that the containers that they thought were tamper-proof, after being sealed, were breakable. How can they justify sanctioning you for a sample that tested negative in Beijing then positive eight years after, with so much swirling around of substances and metabolites in breakable sample containers possibly containing tauaminoheptane or methylhexamine?

I strongly believed Nesta Carter's sample/s were contaminated with non-threshold methylhexamine or tauaminoheptane because of the reported poor handling of samples between the time of the Beijing Olympics and the Olympics in Rio, Brazil, in 2016.

Carter, do not make your handlers and WADA or CAS make you accept something you know nothing about. It's like a black man walking past a store that was robbed in America/Europe and because he is from the hood, they force him to take a plea bargain. They just feel that he should not have been in that area, he does not belong.

Regardless if the world accepts it or not, Bolt has won nine gold medals in three consecutive games. WADA needs to tell the world what steps have been made to fix the worrying sample containers problem that left the anti-doping world absolutely stunned. Jamaica and the Caribbean need to step up their anti-doping knowledge if we are to protect the young Christopher Taylor and Kevona Davis of the future. If an athlete cheats he must be sanctioned, but I cannot be reasonably sure Carter cheated and Bolt fairly lost his nine gold medals in three consecutive Olympics legacy.

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