Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Orville Higgins | Did the JAAA bow to Danielle Williams pressure?

Published:Saturday | August 17, 2019 | 12:12 AM
Williams

It is a most bizarre about-turn. The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) had appeared adamant that they would not allow Danielle Williams to represent Jamaica at the World Championships in Doha later this year.

Following her false start at the national trials and the subsequent declaring of the attempted race after as null and void, the JAAA had stated clearly that Williams would not be considered eligible for the Jamaican team to Doha. Now out of the blue, the governing body has reversed its decision.

We are now told that “following expert international advice and a review of the selection policy” Williams is now eligible after all. Who are these international experts? What are they experts in? The JAAA now wants us to believe that this turnaround could all be hinged on legal grounds. We are now being told that “Miss Williams’ disqualification could therefore not stand given that the race was not completed”, having declared the race null and void.

Are these international experts lawyers? How would this particular case stand up in a court of law? Did Danielle Williams and her people threaten legal action and got the JAAA scared? I am no legal luminary, but I cannot see how a panel could rule in Williams’ favour if this case was brought to a tribunal. I could see a half-decent lawyer arguing logically that the race that was declared null and void never had Williams in it, because she was already disqualified, and therefore could not, in all “reasonableness”, claim to have been unfairly disenfranchised.

PUBLIC OUTCRY

Is this a situation where the JAAA is scared of litigation or was this simply a case of the governing body bowing to public pressure? Most Jamaicans felt that the JAAA was being a little too harsh on Williams. One of the reasons why track officials were reluctant to force her off the track after being repeatedly red-carded was indeed because they feared the reaction of the stadium crowd.

After Williams ran 12.32 to break the national record in the 100m hurdles, and is now the world leader in the female sprint hurdles, the JAAA are under even more pressure to include her. The question is, was this pressure only from Jamaicans or could it be from higher up?

In 2009, the JAAA had banned some MVP athletes from the World Championships team in Berlin, after they missed a training camp. The island was bracing to have a World Championships without some of the biggest names in the sport. It took the intervention of then IAAF president Lamine Diack to get the athletes back in. He had urged the Jamaicans then to look not only at their position, but the position in which we were held in world athletics.

After Diack’s appeal, the JAAA lifted the ban on the MVP athletes. Is this a similar case? Were these “international experts” highly placed IAAF sources, who feel that Williams’ inclusion would be a huge asset to the World Championships?

Is there more here than what meets the eye? Are we setting a bad precedent? Are we rubber-stamping the behaviour of an athlete, who false-starts and holds up a national trial for eternity by virtually refusing to leave the track? Most Jamaicans wanted Williams in Doha one way or the other. Did the end here justify the means or did the people at the JAAA compromise their own principles for reasons best known to them? I think I know the answer, but for now, what say you?

 

Orville Higgins is a sports commentator and radio personality.