Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Letter of the Day | Rethink fitness test for medically exempt athletes

Published:Saturday | August 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Jamaicans and sporting fans around the world have been spared the dismal prospect of the Rio Olympics without the participation of megastar Usain Bolt thanks to the medical exemptions clause in the JAAA's rules governing the selection of currently world-ranked athletes who are injured or ill at the time of the National Trials.

For small countries like Jamaica, the rule is a good one.

Athletes benefiting from medical exemptions, despite their world-ranked status, are not granted automatic selection but are required, understandably, to prove their fitness before the date of final submission of entries.

In the interest of fairness, transparency, and, you could add, justice, care must be exercised in deciding what constitutes 'proof of fitness'.

Consider the case of the third-place finisher whose tentative place in the team is threatened by an athlete with a medical exemption. The third-place finisher, you know, is someone who could only have got there after years of hard training and sacrifice and who desires nothing greater (at the moment) than to perform on the stage of what is considered the greatest show on Earth, The Olympics. Just imagine his/her state of anxiety.

Should proof of fitness be based on the findings of a medical team and/or an assessment by coach/coaches of the performance in training sessions of the medically exempted athlete? How transparent is that, especially compared to the ultimate in transparency, i.e., the trials themselves, witnessed by thousands?




There is no perfect method for resolving whether the third-place finisher or the medically exempted athlete gets the place, but one suspects that a majority would favour a requirement that demanded of the medically exempt a performance, after the trials (at a track meet), bettering that achieved by the third-place athlete at the trials. Better still, have a run-off with the two athletes, there being ample opportunity to arrange such before or after entering the Olympic Village.

The ideals of fairness, transparency, and justice would be better served should either or both suggestions be implemented.



Stony Hill, St Andrew