Paul Wright | Transparency is key, JAAA!
The World Cup of football is at an interesting stage, with eventual winners Brazil poised to meet Serbia tomorrow.
However, the recently concluded National Senior and Junior Championships signalled a new low in the administration and officiating of athletic events. A group of concerned coaches of International stature have called for an investigation and possible new and lasting changes to how athletes are treated by officials of the meet. As is now customary, there was a start fiasco times 3 at this year's meet.
The disqualification of young Minzie and a junior in the prelims of the 100m races seemed, to the casual observer, to be justified. The viewing public and those at the stadium have no access to the computer print-out of the start available to officials, and therefore accept the visual evidence as sacrosanct.
The problem began, however, when big names and national treasures appear to false-start. I do readily admit that paying patrons of meets like the National Senior and Junior Championships have absolutely no interest in seeing clashes involving our athletic icons thwarted because of a disqualification, but a rule is a rule.
One recalls the reaction of thousands of paying patrons at the World Championships in 2011 when the great man himself, the incomparable Usain Bolt, false- started. Television cameras switched from the track to the stands to show disgruntled and disappointed fans leaving the stadium in droves, not bothering to witness another Jamaican sprint sensation, Yohan Blake storming to victory. On Friday last, when "Mummy Rocket" (Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce) appeared to false start in the prelims of the 100m race, there was an audible gasp followed by loud sighs of relief when the green flag was unveiled to the athletes at the start.
In the men's 100m, a similar thing occurred. Comeback Kid, Yohan Blake appeared to false start. Again, the sigh of relief when the green card appeared. Then another false start. This time the dreaded red card appeared and our national treasure Yohan Blake was disqualified. A trip, by Blake, to the officials gathered near to the starter followed, and he was allowed to complete the race "under protest". Another sigh of relief. But more drama was to follow.
Biased application of rules
In subsequent attempts to get the race underway, former National sprint Champion Oshane Bailey appeared to false start. This time, no green card. The dreaded red card appeared. This was followed by a request, similar to the one made earlier by Yohan Blake. This time however, no "bly". Out you go, was the ruling by the officials present. Unusually fellow athletes joined in the protest by Bailey and caused a delay of nigh on 20 minutes. Eventually, Bailey was escorted behind the starting line-up.
Injury prone and now cold, sprinter Kemar Bailey-Cole wisely withdrew from the fiasco, and during the race, the now favourite to win, and cold, Julian Forte injured himself and had to stop, while leading the other runners.
This apparent arbitrary and, some would say biased application of the false-start rule and starter's discretionary powers involves the same set of individuals, year after year, and yet, I am positive that at the next track event at the National Stadium, the same disaster-prone crew will be in place. "Too big to fail" will be the unpublicised but real reason for their continued presence as officials at these events. Will the coaches' cry be heard this time? Nah, don't hold your breath. Those same officials have a powerful voice in deciding who sits in the seats of real power and who gets to go on trips as officials. Therefore they are untouchable.
The other bit of news out of the Championships concerns the beating with a pipe of an official of the meet, Trevor "T.C" Campbell. It is reported that after denying a junior athlete entrance to the track because of inappropriate adornments (an earring), the affected student and two others attacked the official and beat him with an iron pipe. Strangely, there was no word that the police were informed or even if an official complaint was made. This oddity prompted me to try to find out from possible eyewitnesses exactly what happened, as the incident occurred very near to the tent of a prominent track club. My information is that the student from a named and prominent high school was indeed prevented from entering the track because of inappropriate adornments, in the opinion of the official, but the subsequent intervention of a female official associated with the athlete led to activity that culminated in the reported beating. The investigation is internal, but this time the finding should, no, MUST be made public. Transparency MUST be the new buzz word in the halls of power at the JAAA.