Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Transfer, drug-testing issues the damp spots

Published:Tuesday | March 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Athletes competing in the girls' 100 metres sprints before a full house at Champs 2013.
Athletes parade during the closing ceremony at Champs 2013.
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THE Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association

(ISSA) Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships is under way. Champs is on.

The most popular and extensive age group athletics competition for children in the world begins. For the next five days, our children will compete in a variety of track and field events, and at the end, many champions will be crowned.

Some school children will come to realise the awesome power of the media, both electronic and print. These children will not only be the envy of peers and have bragging rights, some of these children will be portrayed as the next Usain Bolt or the next Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and be the recipients of offers of money, scholarships, and, unfortunately, an invitation from School X to change schools.

The rewards for victory have improved exponentially as we now know that the winning school not only gets materials helpful to their pursuit of the primary aim of schools - a place where students' knowledge, understanding, and skills are developed so that they may maximise their full potential, thus preparing them for future educational endeavour after leaving school.

WIN-AT-ALL-COST CULTURE

Winning schools have found that their past-student population is energised to the extent that money and

volunteers are no longer a problem. However, woe is the school that does not maintain a winning culture. Money and volunteers depart in droves and the culture of win at all cost is initiated.

Talented children become commodities bought and sold as it was 300 years ago. The recruitment of students by high schools based on prowess in sports now becomes expected. After years of denial, ISSA, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that the practice exists, has now agreed to a Ministry of Education (MOE) policy document that will go a far way in reducing this abhorrent practice.

Anyone who knows of the ingenuity of Jamaicans in sidestepping rules and laws will understand why I do not believe that the practice of recruiting students based on prowess in sports will cease. I do believe, however, that this practice will not be the norm, but will become the rare and unusual. Severe sanctions for those schools that persist in the practice will also help to make it rare and unusual.

proof to sceptics

The ever-increasing magnitude of the rewards of victory at Champs is the genesis of the buying of children and (as we discovered in 2013) the doping of a high-school student. That is why I am disappointed that the dictates of the prime minister of Jamaica regarding the introduction of testing children at Champs this year have been postponed by ISSA at least for another year.

I do believe that the adult responsible for the positive drug test result from a Jamaican child at the Carifta Trials that year is unidentified and free to continue his/her obnoxious practice, at least for another year. We Jamaicans are sure that the majority of our children do not need dope to cope with the stress of Champs, but the previous positive has caused unbelieving non-nationals to doubt some of the extraordinary results that we are seeing year after year, including one year when 31 records were broken.

Drug testing at Champs will, in my opinion, PROVE that our children are not doping. The postponement of drug testing is disconcerting, to say the least.

Those two negatives, however, should not undermine the five-day spectacle. I am informed that the possibility of a 100-metre hurdles Class One Boys final between Michael O'Hara of Calabar High and multiple international gold medal winner Jaheel Hyde of Wolmer's Boys' will be the must-see race this year.

It can be, but I am reminded of the fact that Jamaica's athletic prowess was introduced to the world via the 400 metres. The performance of international sensation Javon 'Donkey Man' Francis during the Olympics and the spectre of a 15-year-old boy running a sub-46 seconds one-lap race while visibly slowing down over the last 10 metres makes the 400 metres (any class) the must-see event of this year's Champs.

See you there!