Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | Official incompetence

Published:Tuesday | July 5, 2016 | 7:00 AM

Jamaica's ever-improving athletes were 'burning fires' during their early season opportunities for competition. The Diamond League and local invitational meets coughed up marks that were awe-inspiring, sensational, at times.

Sprint hurdler Omar McLeod was ranked at the top of the world. Prior to the 2012 London Olympics, the country's men did not boast a global medal in this event.

Both men and women's discus events - yes, discus - were threatening to have the full complement of three each in Rio.

The women's sprinting duels were going to be hot. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, seeking to confirm her queenly stature - while pushing back a toe injury - was facing an even stouter challenge in Elaine Thompson, touted for equality in status.

All that pending excitement and thrill were to be marred by official incompetence.

Foster's Fairplay has always wished for the level of administration and officiating to replicate the phenomenal rise in the image of the nation's most successful sport. What happened, and seen by the world, as the athletes came under the starter's gun on Friday night flew in the face of all that.

The scenario was the men's 100m final. Before the command, "go", Jason Livermore, in lane one, clearly started his race prematurely and, by extension, illegally. Predictably, the race was called back.

A plethora of replays both on the stadium screen and television sets all over, made it palpably clear that the actual facts went as described.

In common language of the sport, Livermore, or, to make it impersonal, lane one, 'picked'.

It was a stunning moment when an official, after an agonising delay, walked over to lane four and held up a red card, summarily ejecting its inhabitant, Yohan Blake, who, with Bolt's sickout was the overwhelming favourite.

The mayhem was all encompassing, seemingly embracing the spectators and the officials, who gathered in unusual numbers around the electronic system, trying to get a glimpse of what was, for sure, a lethal error.

The incessant replays did not help, save to cast a pall of doubt over the competence of those in charge

Eventually, an all-clear indication was given and all finalists were allowed to run.

The Jamaica Athletics (will the bright fellow who said "bring back the amateur" please stand and take a bow) Administrative Association (JAAA) has issued a press release in response. It is reproduced for its most relevant content.

"The starters are pleased to clarify the error made when the wrong athlete was inadvertently charged for false starting at the JAAA National Senior Championships 100m men's final due to a technical slipup.

"A false start is confirmed by a start-information system, which records changes in power on the blocks, and it is programmed to record a false start if the movement of any athlete is less than 0.100 seconds."

"In this case, a false start was indicated for lane four and the athlete was so charged, as prescribed by the rule.

"However, an entitled review of the start (after the athletes' protest) suggested movement of the athlete in lane one. Checks were made to determine why lane one was not charged, and it was then discovered that blocks programmed for lane one were mistakenly placed in lane four and blocks for lane four placed in lane one.

"The original decision was, therefore, reversed since the athlete in lane four should not have been charged."

"As there was no electronic record of a false start in lane one, it was decided to restart the race due to the configuration anomaly, hence, no athlete was disqualified."

Foster's Fairplay will leave it to its audience to address the merits or demerits of this announcement. What must be asked, however, is that who knows the nature of mental or physical damage that was done to the seven athletes involved?

Could their chances for Rio tickets have been compromised?

The long wait to sort out the debacle could have taken a toll which is untold, even by the athlete himself.

In addition to the release, the JAAA needs to issue an unqualified apology to the athletes, and most importantly, their agents, for what was an indeterminate delay. They came. They saw. They waited. They delivered. Sadly, their governing body failed them.

"We are sorry," could help.

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