Mon | Apr 24, 2017

Reparation Time!

Published:Thursday | September 3, 2015 | 9:00 AMO'Neil Jeremy Clacken
Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer Jamaica's Danielle Williams (centre) battles with the United States' Sharika Nelvis (left) and Brianna Rollins on her way to winning the gold medal in the women’s 100m hurdles final at the World Athletics Championships at the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing, China.

When professional athletes win a race, especially at large international events like the Olympics or World Championships, they get many accolades - medals, money and great recognition. They work hard to represent their country and when their sacrifice and commitment pays off, they are filled with pride, especially when they come out on top and win the gold medal.

Then the big moment comes. They are positioned at the middle podium, the country's flag is raised and their National Anthem plays. There are hardly any words to describe it; tears well up not only for the athletes, but for the millions of their countrymen who are watching. They are happy.

Their countrymen are proud. Not necessarily because they are avid athletes themselves, or because they love sports, but because their nation is shining on the big stage and they are motivated once again to take on life's challenges. This is priceless.

However, over the years, Jamaica has been robbed of this opportunity many times because of the slow response of these authorities who were not as deliberate as they could have been in monitoring these drug cheats as vigilantly as they should.

This not only has caused psychological grief for the athletes, but has cost them millions in sponsorship deals and accolades. When the cheats are tried and found guilty, usually after years of trials and appeals, the actual "winners" would have long lost any opportunity to gain any financial benefits and most important, they would have lost - forever - the opportunity to have their national anthem played.

That great opportunity is not restored even when the offended athlete is eventually given the gold medal and a small mention is made in some obscure article for a short while. It's not the same!

How can we measure the value that is lost from this exercise? What is a real payback for these athletes?

Merlene Ottey

When Merlene Ottey ran in her first Olympics in 1980, she came third. Many people may not have known that the winner, Marita Koch, was later found to be known to use performance-enhancing drugs. The second place went to a youthful Russian athlete, who ran a 22.19 to get the World Junior record ending her brief athletic career, just edging Ottey who ran 22.20.

Had Koch been rightfully sanctioned at the event, Ottey probably would have edged out her young rival. Maybe the psychological effect of being already beaten slowed her by that 1/100 of a second.

This seemed to have plagued Ottey's career as very similar scenarios happened over and over again. It was like dÈj‡ vu in 1983, where Koch edged her out again. According to the sources, Koch did use the anabolic steroid Oral-Turinabol (4-Chlorodehydrome-thyltestosterone) from 1981 to 1984, with dosages ranging from 530 to 1460 mg/year.

2000 Olympics

In August 2008, the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

formally stripped the US team of their gold medals following the admission of Antonio Pettigrew that he had been using performance-enhancing drugs while competing in Sydney and subsequently returned his medal. Medals were reallocated on the July 21, 2012 with Nigeria getting gold and Jamaica silver, with Bahamas being sent their bronze - a place on the podium and the glory of seeing their flag hoisted on camera in front of millions of viewers gone.

On October 5, 2007, Marion Jones of the United States admitted to having taken performance-enhancing drugs prior to the 2000 Summer Olympics. On October 9, she relinquished her medals to the United States Olympic Committee and, on December 12, the IOC formally stripped her of her medals.

In 2009, her medals were redistributed and a gold for the 100 metres was not given and Greece's Thanou, and Jamaica Tayna Lawrence, 11.18, were given the silver, and the 'Bronze Queen', Merlene, with a close 11.19 for third.

Even though the IAAF lists Thanou as the first-place finisher in the women's 100m race, she was not awarded a gold medal by the IOC, the IOC choosing instead to upgrade Lawrence and Ottey but leave the gold-medal slot vacant.

EVEN WORSE

The 200 metres was even worse. The Bahamas' Pauline Davis-Thompson was given a very late gold. No hype. No major fanfare. No endorsement deals. Nothing. Jamaica's Beverly McDonald also missed the podium spotlight, although receiving her medal some time after.

What can we do about these unfortunate series of events? Is it too late to add up all the atrocities that serious, repetitive doping has caused and write the offended athletes a cheque? What will it cost to restore the pride of a country?

Getting an award years after the fact is not only an anti-climax, but puts a damper on our spirits.

Don't you think appropriate reparation is necessary?