Laurie Foster | Dr Blake's warning
Kudos to the president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, who has come out strongly against those coaches making sexual overtures to students under their care. Summing up the situation, he used the words, "zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse against children."
He also mentioned the "hosting of workshops and other programmes to sensitise student athletes about these issues".
Given the recent reluctance to act positively and decisively on a variety of complaints made to the governing body for the sport, albeit about athletes' behaviour on tour, this is very welcome news and could not have come at a better time.
It was reported last week that an unnamed coach was hauled before the courts on sexual charges after he allegedly spirited away a female athlete and abused her, under the pretext of offering her a lift to the bus stop after training.
There have been a number of similar incidents have been allowed to remain as rumours without proper investigation and the identifying of the perpetrators, who walk free. These miscreants should not only receive the sanctions prescribed by the law but, added to that, there needs to be a ban on any activity that exposes the young athletes to probable misery for the remainder of their lives.
Dr Blake's warning should be seen as a message to coaches and team officials who conveniently and for their own corrupt and misguided gratifica-tion seek to prey on their young charges. The athletes are placed under their care by the school management, who should itself be adopting a duty of care. This responsibility is afforded the school bosses by parents who, at times, know very little about the ins and outs of preparation for competition and are held ransom by unscrupulous coaches who are alleged to have no barriers while in the quest of physical enrichment.
Dr Blake should be commend-ed for his brave contribution to the debate, as it sometimes seems that this is an aspect of the sport that is made to remain on auto pilot - controlled and manipulated by team officials who are alleged to go as far as making the exchange of sex a condition for team selection for overseas trips.
It has been satisfying to Foster's Fair play to witness the ever-increasing number of parents who are taking close-up interest in the sporting activities of their young ones. This will, at least, curtail the predatory intent of those who cross the line of morality. Many in their innocence exhibit a level of naivety and dependence on coaches to see their children through the paths of preparation. When this trust is breached, the outcome can be disastrous to the whole psyche of the child. Some may never recover.
Let the concerns and voice of Dr Blake and all who are in support of the cause to curb the acts of abuse of young people resonate throughout the sport and bring awareness to what can, and in some cases, will happen, if these team officials are not reigned in.
Jamaica stands on the threshold of moral and distasteful dry rot and decay and needs to set standards of behaviour in this and other areas of concern. Let the nation no longer bury its head in the sand in these matters which cry out for immediate remedial action. This is what is required to stem or better still, cut out this uncaring and callous attitude in the protection process that should be ever- present in nation building. Wrong is just that and those so engaged, should feel threatened by the words of Dr Blake.
The sport is faced with a crisis of conscience as it seems not to be able to reach a compelling and collective consensus to uphold that which is correct for children.
If the thoughts of Dr Blake, suitably sustained, are to be the springboard for a cleansing action in this area, let them so be.
Jamaica's children should be protected from all types of abuse.