Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Editorial | Transparent hearings should be JADCO’s default

Published:Sunday | August 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM

It may not be the international norm for the adjudication of allegations of doping in sports to be conducted in public, but the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) was right to hold its hearings in the open. It is unfortunate that JADCO, without offering compelling reasons for the decision, intends to reverse this position.

According to the commission's chairman, Alexander Williams, JADCO is making this move because "we are trying ... to align ourselves with the international standards". But this is one circumstance in which it should be the rest of the world, as it was with Usain Bolt on the track, having to catch up with Jamaica. For, as sports attorney Emir Crowne argued, on this matter, Jamaica was indeed "ahead of its time".

The context of why organisations like JADCO and its international counterpart, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), exist is important. Human beings perceive in sporting competition something inherently uplifting. We imbue nobility to athletes in contest, as they strain not only for victory but also to achieve beyond themselves. The rest of us often live vicariously through their efforts.

It is, in part, in the effort to translate this presumption of purity into the loved reality of an imperfect world that we have developed for athletic competition often complex rules, including against the use of performance-enhancement drugs, to ensure, in so far as possible, that these contests remain pristine, without any competitor gaining an unfair advantage. Oganisations such as WADA and JADCO, which is in its 10th year, help to police against drug cheating.

 

COMPLEX SYSTEM

 

So important is this matter that global sport has developed a complex system to ensure that athletes and their governing bodies not only play by the rules, but that when there are infractions, they are arbitrated in largely judicial fashion. Jamaica's default position, in this regard, was for transparency.

Mr Williams now says that was wrong, for the hearings are not about criminal offences and, therefore, of no "public-interest" value until there is "a conclusion that there is a violation". Mr Williams, of course, is wrong.

Public-interest value in our athletes generally, or in specifically doping allegations against them, is to be determined not only by whether they are guilty of the offence. Indeed, the infrastructure established in support of sports, as well as the legislative and quasi-judicial framework upon which JADCO and its tribunals rest, declares as much and insists on openness.

And like with the courts, the value of any such transparency redounds as much to an alleged doping violator before a JADCO tribunal as it does to an accused in a criminal court, for justice, while itself may be blind, thrives best in light. Insofar that Mr Williams may have legitimate concerns about protecting sensitive information and people's reputations, we have two observations.

While the default position of courts is, appropriately, openness, that rule is not absolute. Court hearings, or parts thereof, may, in specific circumstances, be in camera. Second, open hearings help to ensure that they are fair, as much for the accused as for those who prosecute.

There is another important value that has been served by the transparency of JADCO's tribunals. It has bolstered the legitimacy of Jamaica's global athletic prowess. There was a time when international naysayers questioned Jamaica's credibility and its willingness to police Jamaican athletes. JADCO liberated its reputation, helped in no small measure by the transparency of its tribunals. No one can claim that it trumped up findings, guilty or innocent, behind closed doors.