Saving Jamaica’s Athletic Reputation

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By Kent Gammon
Op-Ed Contributor

THE REVELATIONS of eight positive steroid tests by Jamaican athletes this year sent shockwaves through the sporting world.

As an island renowned for its track and field prowess this sounded alarm bells for WADA and perhaps the death knell for the JADCO Board.

Indeed, there has been increased international scrutiny of Jamaica’s drug-testing programme triggered by the eight positive doping tests since the start of the year.

When I was Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission I was aware of the functioning of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission, which included regular out-of-sports testing.

This was critical to the reputation of Jamaica, which has only 2.7 million people and a tremendous medal haul over the last decade.

There have been suspicions by many international sport bodies that the athletes are dopers. The previous WADA chairman long fueled these suspicions by expressing doubts about the anti-doping programme by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission — but while I was there between 2008 to 2011, Jamaica’s reputation as a serious country on anti-doping was fully intact.

Now, the revelations by the former Executive Director of WADA that there has been a serious gap in the testing of Jamaican athletes has brought about disquiet in the Jamaican sporting fraternity and no doubt mistrust by the international sporting community.

Of the many positive things the island is known for on the world stage, Jamaica’s track and field success is arguably the most well known second to the island’s unique Reggae music.

So it is no stretch of the imagination that the accusations from someone within the JADCO camp that the JADCO Board has “dropped the ball” on testing of its athletes is sufficient to be jeered as a traitor.

To her credit Renee Shirley is un-phased by the taunts from the JADCO Board, at least on the outside, but it must be hurtful that to speak the truth merits opprobrium.  It’s a code of sort amongst a coterie to be silent and she was not with that code.

The JADCO Chairman admitted Shirley told the truth but that she exaggerated it. When he was pressed to counter Shirley’s figures he was unable to. In law that’s called “proven on a balance of probability” and Shirley at this time has made the case in her favour.

Saving the Anti-Doping Jamaican ship from sinking

Then the chairman of the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, a good friend of Dr Herb Elliott, has tried to save the JADCO ship from sinking by saying that the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) had conducted its own testing of the Jamaican athletes, including blood tests, before the last Olympics so on that score the athletes weren’t simply unoccupied by doping tests.

But it’s the specific mandate of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission to carry out on a regular basis doping tests so that the suspicions already prevalent with respect to Jamaican athletes are eliminated.

What should have not been allowed is for the very suspicions to be reared again and this time with an extraordinary audit by WADA…not exactly light stuff.

The JADCO chairman admitted that in his own words “there was no money in the coffers” when he became JADCO Chairman in February 2012.

He went on to tell the media that 400 test kits were outdated and unusable. That’s wasteful, because at a cost of approximately USD$30.00 per kit to be obsolete is terrible management, particularly when the country is in the throes of an economic meltdown.

So far, the breakdown in the JADCO doping testing seems to be unchallenged and an apparent victim of the economic meltdown the country is currently undergoing.

The country, however, cannot afford to be “foot loose and fancy free” with its sporting reputation.  It simply must find the resources to allow JADCO to fulfill its mandate or shake up the management of JADCO including its board.

The country already has a portion of the lottery contributed to the sport industry. Why not take a portion of this towards the fulfillment of JADCO’s mandate?

So instead of name-calling and finger-pointing, it behooves the JADCO Board to welcome the WADA extraordinary audit with open arms and demonstrate that they are carrying out the mandate of the commission in an acceptable manner and at a world class standard.

Otherwise, the country’s reputation as serious about anti-doping will be damaged.

Kent Gammon, LLM is a former candidate for the Jamaica Labour Party and an Attorney-at-law.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

 

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