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Stick to anti-doping, student-athlete ‘buying’ procedures outlined

Published:Monday | February 2, 2015 | 11:03 PMDr. Paul Wright

Some years ago, a departing United States Ambassador to Jamaica berated us for applauding ministerial statements and not following up on the announcements to ensure their fruition. He was right.

There are two announcements recently that deserve commendation. The first announcement is that the Jamaica Anti Doping Commission (JADCO) will start collecting blood from our athletes and send the samples to an accredited laboratory for testing.

This will start at the end of the fiscal year. This crucial aspect of the fight against doping in sports will bring Jamaica in line with the other major countries in track and field.

It took the publication of an article in a foreign sports magazine and interviews on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), before local authorities began to publicly respond to concerns of members of the JADCO team.

Further, it took a nudge from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and assistance from a foreign anti-doping agency before blood testing has been announced.

The investigation into doping allegations and findings of Russian and Kenyan athletes have begun to bear fruit as we now know that Russian athletes have been cheating since 2009 (Tatyana Chernova).

This information has come to light because of testing and retesting of blood and urine samples well within the eight-year window that the rules allow for samples to be kept.

Because of monetary and other rewards in sports, athletes have been seeking the edge and cheating ever since the first Olympic Games.

Jamaica ranks high on the list of countries that are involved in corrupt practices and even our local polls reflect the sentiments of the majority of our people that all is not fair and above board in many aspects of Jamaican life.

'We want justice' is now a staple of our nightly newscasts. Knowing this fact and being well aware of the scepticism and disbelief of non-Jamaicans at the continued prowess of our local track and field athletes (they do not believe that we rule the world in track because of Champs and yam), it defied logic and comprehension why Jamaica did not have a robust and fair drug testing program that included testing for erythropoietin (epo), random, unannounced, out-of-competition tests, implementation of the biological passport now mandatory for ALL athletes competing under the auspices of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and targeted testing of athletes using information from Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Internet and Customs.

However, all now seems to be well. A new board of directors of JADCO, with assistance and encouragement from other anti-doping authorities, appear to finally be at the 'get with the program' stage.

It will take informed vigilance to ensure that this is not just another announcement with no time period for enactment.

The next important announcement comes from the Minister of Education, Reverend Ronald Thwaites, who stated quite clearly that this month the Ministry and the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) will issue a joint statement regarding the vexed issue of 'buying' student athletes for the sole purpose of winning at sport.

This abomination and distortion of the purpose of schools as places of education and not sporting academies have been going on for years, with some prominent and successful sport schools now admitting it with an in-your-face-attitude that is reported to have caused some Principals of ISSA to cringe in disbelief.

The ranking of successful sport schools by an independent body have confirmed the fact that these successful sport schools have very little interest in the academic performance of their pupils 'as long as we win Champs or Manning/daCosta Cup'.

That this announcement has come about is due in no small measure to the efforts of the indefatigable Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham, who with a small and ever dwindling group of friends sacrificed time and money in meeting after meeting with anyone who would listen, before convincing the Minister, who really didn't need much convincing, and more importantly some Principals of ISSA, that 'buying a child for the sole purpose of winning at sport is wrong.

Now let us be vigilant in ensuring that these announcements are enacted.