Jamaica changes mind on Powell, teammates, heading into worlds

BERLIN — Jamaica withdrew its request to ban sprint star Asafa Powell and several teammates from the track world championships today, just hours after saying they would be kicked off the team in a dispute over training camp attendance.

IAAF secretary general Pierre Weiss said the world governing body put pressure on the Jamaican federation to change its mind because the exclusion of the six prominent athletes would reflect badly on the championship.

"We asked Jamaica to reconsider in the interest of sport," Weiss said.

The Jamaican federation has been in a dispute with the athletes after they missed a mandatory training camp for worlds last week and said similar issues have plagued the team in recent years.

Federation officials said after reversing the decision that the athletes could face possible sanctions after the championships.

Worlds begin Saturday with a program that includes the opening heat of the 100 meters, where Powell is a medal contender behind fellow Jamaican and Olympic champion Usain Bolt and defending world champion Tyson Gay.

"We are all relieved to have that news," said Paul Doyle, the manager of five of the athletes. "It was all very unnecessary."

The decision ended a tumultuous day at the IAAF Congress, where the initial announcement that Powell, Olympic champions Melaine Walker and Shelly-Ann Fraser and three others would be excluded created an uproar.

"We didn't like it," Weiss said, adding that it was the IAAF's job to make sure nations field the strongest teams possible. "The world championships, that is our baby. We take care of our baby."

The controversy stems from the athletes' decision to skip a training camp for worlds last week in Nuremberg.

Doyle said his athletes had already set up their own preparations in Italy by the time they were notified of the training camp.

"None of us received official notice it was supposed to be mandatory," Doyle said. "It was not fair to treat the athletes this way."

Jamaica's technical director, Don Quarrie, said training camp attendance has been an issue for years, and that the federation was only asking for basic cooperation from the athletes.

"You come to training camp, get the morale of the team together, get relay practices," Quarrie told The Associated Press. "And also, we need to know whether someone is injured. There are some people who think they don't have to abide by those rules."

To be honest with you, it is not really sometimes the athletes, but the people behind the athletes."

He said a similar dispute had soured the mood ahead of the Olympics last year, "and before that too. It reached a point where they flatly ignored our request to come to camp."

The exclusion of the high-profile runners would have dented the appeal of the world championships, as one of the most anticipated battles is between the Jamaican and American sprinters.

Powell's absence would have weakened the Jamaican sprint relay team, while Fraser is a favorite to take gold in the women's 100.

At the Beijing Olympics, Jamaica took five of the six sprint titles, leaving the U.S. team with none. In Berlin the fight for sprint supremacy between the two is one of the most anticipated stories of the championships, which end Aug 23.

The other three athletes involved in the dispute are hurdler Brigitte Foster-Hylton, sprinter Shericka Williams and 400 runner Kaliese Spencer.

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