The 2017 World Championships in Athletics held in London England is now over. The last big athletic event held in London was the 2012 Olympics. That event now has the reputation as the “dirtiest Olympics ever” according to a Mail On Sunday expose. The report brings to the fore the vexed and contentious issue of drug use in sports.
One could be forgiven for thinking that with the advent of the mandatory use of a “biological passport” — whereby athletes have to submit to random and (supposedly) unannounced blood tests which, on analysis, can be used to determine if the athlete is guilty of a doping violation despite not having a positive drug test — very few athletes would even think about cheating, or as they are frequently quoted as saying “I have no idea how that substance came to be in my body”. But we now know that Gil Roberts, an Olympian who has represented the mighty USA in the Olympics and was slated to run in the World Championships, tested positive for the banned substance Probenecid, in March of this year. However, after being suspended in May, he was cleared after a panel accepted his story that the drug came into his body as a result of prolonged kissing with his girlfriend of the time who had opened a capsule containing the drug and ingested the powder in a brief moment when they were not kissing! (I kid you not).
A member of the 4×100 metre relay team of The Bahamas that competed in the World Relays has also tested positive for an as yet un-named substance. Other revelations continue apace, forcing the embattled president of the IAAF to confess to being unable to predict a drug-free Championships!
Here in Jamaica, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) recently ramped up its profile by aggressively bringing cases of anti-doping violations committed by local stars. However, at the hearing, an Independent Tribunal found that the cases were literally “trumped” up and the athletes completely exonerated. This led the chairman of the board, flanked by other high ranking officers “rapping” the chief executive officer of the Commission on the knuckles for going out on a frolic of his own and bringing the commission into disrepute.
The embattled officer was allowed to say “oops” and was authorized to continue in his post, no doubt now very mindful about bringing charges against high-profile athletes. It is essential that the support staff of teams selected to represent us in international competition must be “expert” in their knowledge of the sport and the ramifications of violations.
There is a persistent rumour going around that at the recently concluded Under 21 Netball Championships, a young netballer was given a banned substance by an official of the team and as a result was not selected to represent us as the fear of a drug test during the games was a real threat! The administrators and support staff of teams selected to represent this island internationally must be trained in Sports Administration and Sports Medicine.
The idea that once you are a doctor, or a nurse, then that qualifies you to be a team physician, etc must stop. The Sunday Mail exposé revealed that 87 finalists at the London 2012 Olympics (13%) had previously committed a doping violation or have since done so. “A further 138 finalists or 21 per cent fall into a category which suggests they have an association with doping, in that their coach, agent or doctor is associated with doping or has been investigated; or they have failed or missed a drug test but evaded a ban; or leaks from the Fancy Bears hacking website have revealed suspicions around their blood profiles.”
The newly announced Faculty of Sport at The University of the West Indies under the leadership of Dr Akshai Mansingh is a step in the right direction and may be instrumental in reducing the frequency of our local sporting ambassadors being subject to the ignominy of false accusations, peculiar and possibly biased selection decisions, and having to resort to court injunctions to have previous selections honoured.
The Sunday Mail article has listed Jamaica as having 8 of our 21 finalists in the 2012 London Olympics being sanctioned. It also reports that Russia had 53 finalists, with 29 committing doping violations, Turkey with 9 finalists had 4 sanctioned, Belarus with 14 finalists of which 7 were sanctioned.
In the women’s 4×100 relay finals, 7 athletes who participated have been sanctioned, 2 Jamaicans, 2 from the Ukraine, 2 from Trinidad and Tobago, 1 from Nigeria and 1 Brazilian with a case pending. Jamaica has no business being listed in this group of nations. I fully expect a statement from the JAAA (or JADCO) but the truth is that unless we make attendance at JADCO-organized education seminars mandatory for any athlete selected to represent us and have full transparency of the frequency of announced and unannounced blood and urine testing of athletes REGARDLESS of their iconic stature, then our name will continue to be besmirched by these exposés with a chilling effect on our reputation as the sprinting and (soon) athletic champion of the world. We can do better, we must do better.