Young Jamaican sprint star tests positive for banned substance

Briana Williams

(Jamaica Gleaner) The Gleaner can now report that double World Under-20 sprint champion and national junior record holder Briana Williams has tested positive for the banned diuretic Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ).

With the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) set to name its team for the World Championships on September 6, Williams’ attorney, Dr Emir Crowne, told The Gleaner on Tuesday that he will be seeking an expedited hearing and will be contesting that the 17 year-old had no fault in the circumstances and therefore, should not face any sanctions.

“Our primary position will be that Ms Williams bears no fault in the circumstances and there should be no sanctions levied against her. That will be our primary position,” Crowne said. “It will be an uphill battle, but this is one of the truly genuine times, when there was nothing more that the athlete could do in the circumstances.”

“Failing a finding of no fault whatsoever, then we will rely on a finding of no significant fault because again it’s a contaminated product and under the WADA Code and JADCO code, the minimum sanction is a reprimand, so we will be asking, in light of the circumstances (that she receives a reprimand).”

Williams’ B sample has reportedly confirmed the presence of the substance, which was first detected from tests carried out at the National Senior Championships between June 20 – 23. However, Crowne said he is yet to receive confirmation of this.

Briana Williams

“We want to be very clear that we were not the ones, who revealed that it was in fact Briana Williams and we are a bit concerned that the information has come to light between her A sample and requesting her B sample being tested. We remain very concerned how her name came to light,” said Crowne.

“Quite frankly, we have not received any notice of the results of her B sample yet. I emailed JADCO to follow up and we have no official communication from JADCO whatsoever about that,” he added.

The athlete’s ‘A’ sample was originally tested at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited lab in Montreal, Canada.

Diuretics are often abused by athletes to excrete water for rapid weight loss and to mask the presence of other banned substances.

On July 25, Williams and her team were advised of an adverse analytical finding in her ‘A’ sample from the National Senior Championships, where she placed third in the 100m in 10.94 seconds to secure a spot on the country’s team to the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

It is, however, understood from a well-placed source, which requested anonymity, that Williams’ team has pointed to a contaminated cold and flu medication, which importantly, she had declared on her testing protocol form, as the source of the banned substance.

The medication, which does not list HCTZ as an active ingredient, was subsequently sent by Williams’ team to be tested independently by NSF International Labs in Michigan, USA, which confirmed that the medication used by the athlete was contaminated with traces of the banned diuretic.

JADCO is believed to have received all results and information from the NSF International tests.

In 2013 multiple Olympic and World Championships gold medal winner Veronica Campbell-Brown was provisionally suspended by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), after also testing positive for HCTZ and was later given a public warning. The ruling was challenged by the IAAF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). However, the court decided to clear Campbell-Brown of all doping charges.

Two years later, CAS upheld a two-year ban handed down by the Jamaica Independent Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel, on thrower Traves Smikle for the presence of the same substance.

It is understood by sources familiar with the situation that there may be mitigating circumstances in Williams’ case, given the fact that, at 17 years-old, she is still a minor and has never competed internationally as a senior athlete.