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Sprint king Bolt welcomes hair follicle testing

Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt poses for photographers as he signs copies of his autobiography, "Faster than Lightning," at Selfridges in centr
Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt poses for photographers as he signs copies of his autobiography, "Faster than Lightning," at Selfridges in centr

By Kayon Raynor

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) - Jamaica's Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt has "no problem" with plans by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to test the hair follicles of athletes in a bid to clamp down on drug cheats in sport.

"This is the first I'm hearing it," Bolt said minutes after collecting his 5th RJR Sports Foundation National Sportsman of the Year Award in Kingston late on Friday.

"But I think that anyway you can crack down on drug use in sports, I have no problem with it," added the Jamaican, who holds the 100 and 200 meter world records of 9.58 and 19.19 seconds.

Bolt's comments come after new WADA boss Craig Reedie revealed his intension to introduce hair follicle testing to help rid sports of drug cheats.

"We test in the main blood and urine, but now we will look at different approaches, such as can we use a lock of hair," Reedie was quoted by the British newspaper The Guardian as saying.

Bolt, the winner of six Olympic gold medals, welcomed the move.

"If it's a new rule and it's a better way to clamp down on this, then I welcome it," the sprint star offered.

Reedie, who says a new $10 million fund set up by the International Olympic Committee should open up new testing techniques to catch cheats said: "This is a really exciting development and means we can look at approaches that in the past have been unaffordable."

Meanwhile, Paul Wright, the doping control officer at the Jamaica Anti-doping Commission (JADCO) who last year noted the spate of positive tests by Jamaican athletes, including Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, believed Reedie's plan was a master stroke.

"Hair follicle (testing) has been advocated by France for some years now and it is good to see that this new chief of WADA has decided to put this in his armament," Wright reasoned.

Another Jamaican Sports Medicine Specialist Winston Dawes believed the latest testing technique could work in Jamaica's favor.

"I think that the more test (technique) that we have, the more we (Jamaica) will prove that its natural talent and our (training and high school) program, which has been the reason why we have dominated the sprints in the last few years," Dawes said.

Executive Director of JADCO Carey Brown, who took office in October after Jamaica was put through the ringer over claims of inadequate testing, said he stood ready to implement whatever the global anti-doping watchdog proposes.

"We welcome anything like that because, I mean, it would be something new… something innovative. Using hair follicles, as well, is also less invasive," the JADCO boss said.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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