Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Follow the trace | Let athletes go if they want

Published:Tuesday | May 24, 2016 | 5:13 AM
Coe ... against athletes switching allegiance

The issue of the switching allegiance by Jamaican athletes is back on the front burner and will remain there for as long as Jamaica continues to produce so many world-class athletes on a consistent and continuous basis.

A simple balancing of the equation will aptly demonstrate the reasoning of more and more ambitious, young, Jamaican sprinters seeking to switch their allegiance to another country.

In men's 100 metres sprinting presently, there at least 10 Jamaicans who have gone below 10 seconds and are still competing.

At least another 10 are at the 10.00, 10.10 seconds level. So conservatively, we are looking at 20 Jamaican sprinters in the 100-metre pool competing for three automatic spots and six relay spots on Jamaica's Olympic team.

Continuing to do the math, approximately 14 high-quality 100-metre sprinters will certainly not make the Jamaican Olympic team. These are sprinters who, if they represented another country, could possibly go as far as the Olympic semi-final and possibly the final, and would conceivably benefit from all the spin-off effects commensurate with that level of international achievement.

In that context, the new hard-line stance being adopted by the local athletics governing body, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative (JAAA), is most unreasonable, to say the least. Every man or woman should have the right to exploit their God-given talent and hard work to garner the best possible remuneration the open market has to offer.

 

Restriction of trade

 

What the JAAA is proposing borders on restriction of trade, which is effectively stopping Jamaican athlete from maximising their full earning potential.

Even with consideration given for the JAAA'S obligation to protect the nation's legacy and ensure the continuation of our dominance in world sprinting, it is still overreaching and over reacting to have a blanket, non-discretionary policy as it relates to this issue. Natural justice suggests at least some athletes should be allowed to go if they want to go.

The fact of the matter is that the JAAA and/or the Government of Jamaica have not invested in any major way in the development of these athletes.

For the most part, it has been the private track and field clubs and the individual sacrifice of the athletes that got them into the position they are in today.

These athletes really owe no real obligation to Jamaica, but more so are beholden to themselves and to their families, who quite often depend on them for a better life.

The threat by the JAAA to enforce the three-year waiting period on all athletes seeking to make the switch, instead of exercising the option of sending them on their way within a year, is a scare tactic and smacks of an unreasonable use of power.

Even the president of the IAAF, Lord Sebastian Coe, has weighed in on this now worldwide trend, citing disagreement with the frequency of athletes switching allegiance. He, too, is being selfish and unreasonable.

 

Unique scenario

 

This is an evolving and unique scenario in Jamaica, especially in our sprinting where our supply is simply overwhelming the demands of our system and, as it is with the export of any indigenous product, we should be allowed to export our sprinters.

When a Jamaican athlete, like any other Jamaican in any other sphere of life, comes to the conclusion that opportunities are limited in Jamaica and they wish to migrate to another jurisdiction with their skills and expertise, they should have the right so to do.

The JAAA should wise up, be reasonable and let the athletes go if they want.