Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Orville Taylor | The Nesta Carter injustice

Published:Friday | February 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Nesta Carter

In 2000, Marion Jones, star American athlete who had been beaten at the IAAF World Junior Championships in 1992, by our own Nikole Mitchell, held off the Merlene Ottey-anchored 4x100m women's relay team and denied her one of the deserved gold medals. For me, it was a disappointment, because we all knew that at 40 years old, it was the last hurrah for our beloved.

Unfortunately labelled the Bronze Queen despite having won individual gold medals in the World Championships and World Indoor Championships, and probably robbed of gold in the controversial loss to Gail Devers in the 1996 Olympics, the initial feeling surrounding her was that she was just not good enough when it counted.

Cynics like me were always suspicious that the Americans always produced a female champion who was at least as good as the Russians. And between the mid-1980s and the end of the 1990s, she looked less feminine and attractive than Evelyn Ashford, whose gluteus maximus didn't look as if it were made in some blacksmith's foundry. I mean, our Jacqui Pusey was 'trang', but she looked like just a regular water-bearing Jamaican woman from the country. Merlene was herself like a bronze statue, but feminine.

It was, therefore, not surprising that Jones eventually revealed that she was part of a deliberate and sophisticated doping network in the USA. It is a big deal that someone knowingly commits any offence. Any third-rate lawyer will tell you that there is a world of difference in the type of punishment in natural justice when the mens rea (guilty mind) is present. Thus, where there is clear and deliberate intention to perform an unlawful act, the penalty must be, and is, greater than that which the negligent or naive should receive.

In the world of sport, and the world of track and field specifically, there is on paper a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to the presence of banned substances. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has a list of prohibited chemicals that it has published.

There is an obscure rule that allows for substances which are not listed, but deemed to be substantially similar to be the same. It is this same rule that caught Yohan Blake and others a few years ago when they took supplements that were not performance-enhancing drugs, but which led to the same adverse analytical findings as if they had taken the published methylhexaneamine.




Let me state here that simply because the panel had determined that Blake et al were guilty doesn't mean that the judgment was a just one, and in my considered opinion, the legal team should have appealed this decision. For me, a published list is a sort of disclaimer on the part of the penalising authority.

Therefore, as in any published legal code, the perpetrator cannot plead ignorance. My opinion was that at the time, in the absence of a clear indication from WADA as to the banned substance, it could not reasonably punish any athlete who innocently took something that was not listed but which produces possible similar indicators.

It is like the plethora of designers that are in use in the USA now. As long as one does not have in his or her possession one of the scheduled drugs listed in a published statute or regulations under a statute, it is like using an expired credit card - 'no charge'.

Nevertheless, since there has not been a reversal of what I still believe is an unjust decision, it remains a sort of precedent, and unless challenged and upset or new regulations are instituted by the lawmakers, it influences current awards.

Thus, Nesta Carter, the man who literally led off our Jamaican stamping of ourselves as the top sprint team in the world in 2008, is now appropriately banned. The decision is 'good law', but a bad and unjust one. Someone should challenge that.




Moreover, it is also repugnant that the (International Olympic Committee) IOC, in doing archaeology, has gone back to dig up old samples, but unlike when they were first tested, there is no re-examination of the B sample - an indispensable condition.

Simply put, the IOC is now relying on a lower standard in conducting the retesting of the archived sample than it did when the sample was young, fresh and green in 2008. Now, tell me if I am stupid or not! Given the possibility that time might have caused all manner of misadventure to befall the samples, is it not logical or, rather, imperative that a higher standard of proof and probity be used?

I am in total agreement with former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson who is lending his considerable legal expertise here. After all, he did wonders in the matter involving Veronica Campbell-Brown a few years ago.

Nevertheless, there is another element here, which is where the real issue lies. Not only will Carter have to return his gold medal, but the entire team will have its time expunged, although it is no longer the record, since we have run faster than that twice. For his other colleagues, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell, it must be a bitter pill to swallow. Never mind Usain Bolt, he has a jewellery store of gold medals and a catalogue of records.

This is not the case of the teammates of Jones, who were made to keep their medals because the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) made such an award on appeal. Neither is it the case where the remaining American men on their 4x400 team had their medals reinstated despite Jerome Young being 'contaminated'. Of course, that seems unjust, especially when the substances were performance-enhancing.

It is a delicate balance because I wonder what the IOC would do if a goalkeeper or goalscorer in an Olympic final tested positive after the medals have been determined?

Indeed, as we celebrate the Jamaican women's 4x400 team's elevation to silver-medal status because of the disqualification of the Russian team under similar circumstances as Carter, I hope we realise how hypocritical we are.

If it is unfair to Carter and his innocent teammates, we should not accept the women's medal.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to and tayloronblackline@