Tue | Oct 23, 2018

No need to dope, argues Dr. Paul Wright

Published:Tuesday | March 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Contributed Natalie Neita-Headley, Minister with responsibility for Sport in discussion with right Michael Fennell, President of the Jamaica Olympic Association(JOA) and Sir Craig Reedie, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency(WADA) at the JOA dinner in honour of Sir Craig Reedie at the Terra Nova Hotel recently.

The athletics season is now in full swing for the juniors. The Gibson McCook Relays, held over the weekend, served as a good pointer to what we can expect this year from our athletes.

I have always felt that our athletic prowess is due in part to our genetic make-up, coupled with the intense season of races and preparation for the competition known as 'Champs'.

When our forefathers were sold as slaves, they were transported from Africa to the West Indies via the notorious Middle Passage, wherein those of poor health died and were deposited at sea.

Our foreparents who survived the Middle Passage were expected to accept the despicable conditions without a murmur, and those who were feisty and would not be docile to accept their lot were taken off the boat at the first stop from Africa and sold.

That first stop was Jamaica. In Jamaica, the strongest males and the strongest females were selectively mated in order to produce strong slaves, capable of withstanding long hours of hard work on the sugar plantations of the Island.

There now was a group of healthy, strong slaves with attitude, whose descendants were eventually emancipated and educated in schools where Champs was born.

Intense rivalry

The intense inter-school rivalry and preparation necessary to be successful resulted in what we now know and recognise as the sprint capital of the world, Jamaica, the home of the fastest man and woman in the world.

With that background, there should be no reason for any Jamaican to use drugs to be successful at sports. Yet, history has shown us that even though we are gifted genetically and train hard, there are still those of us who cheat.

Cheating seems to be restricted to those who were once good, but with the passage of time find themselves unable to make the team or those who find the training and preparation too hard and seek an easy way.

The rest of the world does not see us that way, unfortunately, and with more and more athletes testing positive for drugs or confessing in the face of overwhelming evidence, it is felt that a country of a little more than two million inhabitants, with meagre financial resources, cannot consistently defeat the inhabitants of countries of

considerably greater financial resources and scientific

expertise. But we do.

We consistently beat the best that the rest of the world has to offer. So the cynics say, 'it must be drugs'.

Those of us who have been associated with the athletes themselves over time are sure that the majority of our champions are drug-free, but there have been some results that have caused even the most patriotic among us to say "wow!"

We need evidence

That is where those of us who 'know' that our athletes do not use drugs needed proof.

We needed to show the world that there was evidence that Jamaicans don't need dope to cope. We needed a drug-testing programme that was thorough, robust and involved unannounced out-of-competition testing that would detect the methods and substances used by the modern drug cheat. We didn't have such a programme and it was revealing to hear the present minister with responsibility for sport admit at a press conference recently that she had to dismiss the entire board of the local anti-doping agency and seek assistance from a foreign anti-doping group in an attempt to "get it right".

So the new anti-doping board, with assistance and expertise from the Canadians, are on a programme that should in time, be comparable with First World anti-doping programmes. So we wait.

The prime minister has promised a drug-testing programme for Champs. When? No one is sure yet.

The CEO of the anti-doping association has promised to start blood testing soon. There should be retesting for EPO, carbon isotope testing, etc., soon.

Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones, two celebrity drug cheats, have never tested positive for drugs, have never failed a drug test, so we know that the oft repeated refrain, 'I have never tested positive', means absolutely nothing in the fight against doping in sports.

The head of the World Anti Doping Association (WADA) has visited and approved the plans for education and testing in Jamaica.

Let us be vigilant and insist that our anti-doping programme be transparent and thorough to prove that Jamaicans do not need dope to cope in athletics.