Asafa Powell to run at the Athlone Institute of Technology this evening

Athletics Ireland’s Ciarán Ó Catháin defends decision to invite formerly banned sprinter

In the legal sense Asafa Powell is perfectly entitled to run and the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) have also been defending the moral sense of inviting him to headline this evening's international indoor meeting.

Powell – the former 100m world record holder – tested positive for the stimulant oxilofrane in July 2013, and was originally handed an 18-month suspension by the Jamaican federation. He then appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), who reduced the ban to just six months, accepting Powell’s claim that a contaminated supplement was to blame.

He now finds himself in Athlone at the invitation of Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin, the president of both AIT and Athletics Ireland, who also spearheaded the development of the €10million AIT indoor arena, which opened in 2013.

“Some people might have an issue with that, and have already said to me, that it might be inappropriate, in my position as both the president of AIT and of Athletics Ireland, to invite him,” said Ó Catháin.


“But I’ve made it very clear that I’ve invited him as president of AIT. He had an 18-month ban, and that was reduced to six months, after CAS accepted, very clearly, that the offence was on the very low scale, and that there was contamination of a product. They also fined the Jamaican athletics federation for the way they handled the whole case.

“So I think to be fair to any athlete, and to be fair to everybody, if a ban is completed that athlete is eligible to compete, and I think Asafa is going to run all around the world this year, so why not give him the opportunity to run here in Ireland.”

Powell is not the only headline act in town – with the fastest women alive in American sprinter Carmelita Jeter, plus the world's leading high jumper in Mutaz Barshim from Qatar also competing.

“We wanted to create a showcase for Irish athletics, and the indoor arena, and this meeting certainly does that,” said Ó Catháin.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics