By Kayon Raynor
KINGSTON (Reuters) - Jamaica has made progress toward beefing up drug-testing and repairing its tarnished sprinting reputation following a string of doping scandals, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency told Reuters on Tuesday.
WADA president Sir Craig Reedie arrived in Jamaica on Friday to check on the Caribbean sprint capital's anti-doping efforts after high-profile positive tests around the 2012 London Olympics raised red flags over the island's drug-testing.
Reedie, the first WADA president to visit Jamaica, concluded his visit by saying he was "encouraged and hugely impressed" by the steps taken by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission.
"They have put behind them the troubles that were very public two or three years ago," said Reedie. "It's been a big effort, there are a number of different priorities, they been well supported by government."
In the aftermath of the doping scandals the Jamaica Anti-doping Commission (JADCO) changed its board of directors, employed a new executive director and implemented a battery of recommendations proposed by WADA.
Reedie was also given updates about anti-doping legislation passed last December and plans for drug testing in 2015.
Carey Brown, executive director of JADCO, revealed on Tuesday that those plans include blood testing starting in April.
JADCO Chairman Danny Williams expressed his delight with the comments made by the WADA boss.
"I want to thank government and the sports minister to living up to responsibility where JADCO is concerned,” Williams said during a press briefing. "We hope to develop the kind of organization where WADA will call on us and say, 'look, the folks in Kenya need some help we are recommending that you go in and assist them.'"
JADCO have been making improvements in drug testing since a three-man WADA team visited Jamaica in 2013 and carried out a forensic audit following high-profile positive tests by Olympic and world championship medalists Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Powell and Simpson, who both tested positive for a banned stimulant, had their 18-month bans reduced to six months by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
Campbell-Brown, who tested positive for a banned diuretic, had her two-year suspension from the IAAF overturned by the CAS because the collection of her samples did not follow WADA's international standards.
Brown pointed out that JADCO has made moves to improve its collecting procedures by bringing in new staff trained in the best practices of WADA.
"As a government we continue to express, not only through words, but financially that we take this process of anti-doping very seriously," said Jamaica minister for sports Natalie Neita-Headley. "When all other budgets were cut, the budget of JADCO have never been reduced since this government took office in 2012, in fact it has been increased."
(Editing by Steve Keating)