Wed | Aug 23, 2017

The mystery of Andre Russell's situation

Published:Friday | March 11, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Over the past few days, there have been two high-profile sports personalities who have been implicated in drug-related issues. The two cases have forced us once again to put the issue of doping on the front burner. In both cases, there are a lot of questions to be asked. We will talk about Maria Sharapova and her positive test for Meldonium at another time. Closer to home is West Indies cricketer Andre Russell. He has breached what is loosely called the 'whereabouts rule' which means that he missed the drug testers on three different occasions in a 12-month period by not being where he said he would be in that one hour per day window which all sports personalities at a certain level must declare. That, of course is the charge by JADCO. We haven't yet heard Russell's side of the story.

On the face of it, Russell is at the very least careless. My understanding of the procedure is that the testers will warn you after they missed you once. They will warn you again after they miss you twice. It is clear that you are flirting with danger once you allow yourself to miss the testers a third time in that 12-month period. Why would Russell have allowed himself to get into this predicament? When British athlete Christine Ohuruogu found herself in a similar situation some time ago, missing three competition tests in a 12-month period, cynics in Jamaica felt that she must have had something to hide. She was banned for a year as a result. We haven't heard too many Jamaicans casting suspicions about Russell, which tells us that quite often we form opinions based on the personalities involved and not necessarily along principled lines. We await Russell's fate and hope that he has some credible explanation.

 

DEAFENING SILENCE

 

His case has raised some questions. For much of the past 12 months, Russell would have been involved in playing cricket away from Jamaica. It would seem reasonable that all, or at least one of those missed tests, happened while he was abroad. If that wasn't so, then it would be odd that the news of his three missed tests would only now be released by JADCO. Or, is it that between his gigs in these international 20-20 tournaments he slips into the island without fanfare? All of that is possible of course, but this doesn't appear likely. Assuming that one or all of the tests were done on foreign soil, why would JADCO want to get him tested to the point where their representatives either travel outside of Jamaica, or seek the help of other WADA figures in the global space? Was this a mere random case with Russell merely being 'salt'? Or was he targeted in some way? If he was targeted, why would that be? Has there ever been a case since JADCO was set up where they were so keen to test a Jamaican athlete who spends so much time competing on foreign soil?

JADCO can clear up these questions, but they have been very quiet. I have tried to no avail to speak with the people there. What is strange about this is that despite coming out with the news that Russell has breached the 'whereabouts rule', he has been allowed to play on. He is currently in India with the West Indies team, and it's apparently business as usual. We have heard of a meeting scheduled for March 23, but Russell will still be in India. Or is he going to fly home to meet the tribunal? Is there any precedence for this? We keep hearing that three missed tests is treated the same way as a first-time doping offence. Certainly, the maximum two-year ban is standard in both cases. When an athlete tests positive, however, they are always provisionally suspended right away, and are not allowed to compete until they have been cleared at a hearing or until they have served their time. Why is this not the case here?

What is also interesting is that WADA, the parent body of JADCO, has also been quiet on this. For a body so vigilant in stamping drugs out of sports, their silence is deafening. Can the rest of the cricketers in that 20-20 World Cup take umbrage to Russell playing among them? When Shane Warne tested positive for a substance called Moduretic, he was unceremoniously sent away from the 2003 cricket World Cup. No tears were shed then. Is there something big at play here where Russell is concerned, or is this merely much ado about nothing?

- Orville Higgins is a talk-show host and sportscaster. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.