Christopher Xuereb

Bubka, entourage issues up front

When he was a pole vault star, Sergei Bubka said he was so careful about what he ate and drank that, for instance, he would never sip from a bottle with an open seal. Now Bubka, who broke the pole-vaulting world record 35 times in a career that includes the 1988 Seoul Olympic gold medal, is a senior member of the International Olympic Committee and, since 2010, chair of its Entourage Commission. Now he is, as well, a vice president of track and field's governing body, which goes by the acronym IAAF.

Now, too, he is one of six candidates running for the IOC presidency in an election set for September, and if anyone figured to have keen insight into Sunday's news that some of the world's top sprinters, including American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell, had failed doping tests, it figured to be Bubka.

If you were looking for someone to make nice or to be an apologist, you mistook Bubka for the wrong sheriff in town. He was clear, decisive and direct, calling it "imperative" that "all athletes" take "total care and responsibility for what food, drink and other supplements they are given."

He also said, "While no one wants to create an atmosphere of mistrust, there is a lot at stake at the highest levels of sport and anyone who claims to support clean sport must ensure that they set an example by avoiding any possibility of taking something that is banned."

What makes the Gay and Powell cases so compelling is that they figure to prove fascinating studies in entourage -- shining a spotlight on this heretofore under-appreciated corner of the Olympic scene, perhaps with implications even for the IOC presidential race, with Bubka obviously smartly positioned.

Sometimes, that's just the way circumstance plays out.

Bubka's remarks came as Associated Press reported police raided a northeastern Italian hotel where Powell and another top Jamaican sprinter, Sherone Simpson -- who also failed a doping test -- had had been staying, and as Adidas suspended its sponsorship of Gay.

The German company had backed Gay since 2005. It invoked a clause in Gay's contract relating to doping, saying it was "shocked" by the allegations, adding "even if we presume his innocence until proven otherwise, our contract with Tyson is currently suspended," AP reported.

Gay, who had run a 9.75, the fastest 100 meters in the world this year, said he had tested positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition test on May 16. The substance at issue has not been identified. He is still awaiting confirmation of his backup "B" sample.

Gay said Sunday he had "basically put my trust in someone and was let down," declining to identify that "someone."

Gay immediately sought to accept responsibility, saying Sunday he did "not have a sabotage story" nor "any lies," adding, "I don't have anything to say to make this seem like it was a mistake or it was on [the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's] hands, someone playing games. I don't have any of those stories."

Powell, a former 100 world-record holder, and Simpson, a three-time Olympic medalist, both tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrine.

AP reported police seized unidentified substances in a raid at the Fra i Pini hotel in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy, where Powell's room, Simpson's room and the room of physical trainer Christopher Xuereb of Canada were searched.

The New York Times, in a story published late Monday, reported that Paul Doyle, Powell and Simpson's agent, was blaming Xuereb for the positive tests. An email Doyle got Sunday from Xuereb said the trainer had provided the two sprinters with a combination of about 20 supplements and injections, and had injected Powell with actovegin, made from calves' blood extract. Doyle told the newspaper it was "pretty obvious where we needed to look" in trying to "figure out what went wrong."

The paper asserted that none of the substances is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

In a statement issued before Monday's police action in Italy, Powell said, "My team has launched an internal investigation and we are cooperating with the relevant agencies and law enforcement authorities to discover how the substance got in my system. I assure you that we will find out how this substance passed our rigorous internal checks and balances and design systems to make sure it never happens again."

He also declared he was "not now -- nor have I ever been -- a cheat."

Last month, Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown, the 2004 and 2008 200 meter champion, tested positive for a banned diuretic.

Gay and Campbell-Brown, meanwhile, are longtime friends.

Perhaps as many as 30 doping cases are awaiting resolution in Turkey -- on top of a number of high-profile others that have already come down there earlier this year.

The news Sunday broke about a month before the IAAF world championships in Moscow. The sport, and indeed the wider Olympic movement, found itself Monday confronting -- yet again -- the issue of doping among high-profile athletes.

Spokesman Nick Davies issued a statement saying the IAAF's anti-doping commitment was "unwavering" because it had an "ethical obligation" to clean athletes.

"The credibility of our anti-doping program, and the sport of [track and field], is enhanced, not diminished, each time we are able to uncover a new case and we have the committed support of every athlete, coach or official who believes in clean sport."

IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement issued to AP, "I am naturally disappointed, and I would like to reiterate our zero-tolerance policy against doping.

"Clearly, the fight against doping can never be totally won, but these cases do once again show the effectiveness of the strong, sophisticated and continually evolving battle against doping in sport being waged by the International Olympic Committee and its partners in the Olympic movement."

Bubka, meanwhile, observed, "Doping and corruption are two of the biggest challenges facing the Olympic movement and we must do all we can to stay one step ahead of those who seek to threaten the purity of sport.

"The fact that there have been so many positive tests in recent weeks is a good thing. It means that anyone who is caught using banned substances is one less athlete able to compete and gain an unfair advantage."