Dalton Myers | In support of JADCO
For the first time in my life I find myself supporting a decision by Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) against noted sports attorney Dr Emir Crowne - JADCO's decision to have private hearings as opposed to the normal public ones.
I support JADCO on the following premises: It is an international practice to have hearings conducted privately; the move does not violate the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code; and most important, it allows athletes some degree of privacy. Whether a hearing is public or private does not in itself create a lack of transparency, as seems to be the general argument by both Crowne and his supporters, including The Gleaner Editorial of August 12, 2018.
Let's put things into context. Jamaica adopted the WADA Programme and its Code in 2003, and the establishment of JADCO in 2008 via the Anti-Doping in Sport Act (amended in 2014). The body is mandated to grant athletes the right to a timely hearing, fair and impartial hearing body, and representation by counsel to help respond to the asserted adverse analytical finding and receiving timely, written, reasoned decisions. These conditions are important in assessing accountability and transparency for both the disciplinary hearing and the appeals tribunal.
Interpretation of rules
Having attended a few JADCO hearings, and studied cases that have gone to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), it's clear that the issues which arise rarely relate to the hearing itself but rather the interpretation of rules, and the testing and results management process. There's also the feeling that the interpretation of rules and the evidence presented do not always align with international standards, as was evident in recent JADCO proceedings including that of Veronica Campbell-Brown. Additionally, public hearings have been harmful in some cases, particularly to an athlete's image and psychological well-being. Media coverage oftentimes does not analyse the various issues surrounding the case and athletes are seen as 'cheaters' even before cases start.
I am also surprised by the widespread condemnation of JADCO changing to follow international practices. Globally, most anti-doping disciplinary hearings are private with the summary available based on request or online. Crowne's argument that "Jamaica was ahead of the rest of the world in how it handled its hearing because it allowed for transparency and accountability" is mere semantics, as closed or open doors do not equal to or disallow transparency and accountability. It is the presence of structures that facilitate persons like himself arguing a case for an athlete, ensuring due process in following the WADA Code, International Testing Standards and so on that would determine if we value transparency and accountability.
The Canadian Anti-Doping Programme Rule 14.3 deals with public disclosure, and like the US Anti-Doping Agency, tries to find a middle ground to ensure openness while maintaining a level of privacy.
Some athletes have been left embarrassed and hurt by the public coverage of their hearing when later proven not to be at fault. My simple suggestions are that:
1. JADCO must address the perceived 'leaking' of athletes' results and make announcements in a three-week window after athletes are notified under the WADA Code.
2. JADCO keeps both the disciplinary and appeals hearings private.
3. A time frame be set in which hearings should be completed (this has been a headache for many athletes).
4. Media and interested parties be allowed at the venue to conduct interviews after each sitting.
5. The ruling and reasons are made available to the public after each completed hearing.
6. A publicly accessible sanctions registry.
7. A portal for media requests which do not violate the WADA privacy rules be created.
The truth is, private hearings will not affect public trust once the lawyers are confident in the hearing summary. This is similar to CAS (which also has its issues). As an arbitration panel, CAS's hearings are private but its rulings and summaries are made public on its website. Most of us accept the decisions as gospel even when there may be concerns with those said rulings.
Yes, JADCO needs continuous restructuring and revaluating, and I hope the new executive director can lead that charge. However, I believe private hearings are the way to go.
- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.