Sat | Aug 15, 2020

Laurie Foster | Let’s prove the doubters wrong in Doha

Published:Wednesday | September 18, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Danielle Williams

With the announcement of the selection of the country’s 55-member team to the 17th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Doha, Qatar, the focus should now be on getting the best possible performances in the competition.

One has difficulty in recalling a similar journey to a World Championships where there had been so much controversy similar to what has threatened to overshadow the real purpose of this mission to the Middle Eastern city. Jamaica has established a prominent, high-class image in global track and field, making it the envy of richer nations. There have been ­suggestions that the country could be toppled from its lofty perch, especially with the retirement of the class act in the sport, Usain Bolt. One of the primary objectives during the upcoming 10-day event should be to prove to the world that nothing could be further from the truth.

There have been two incidents in the past weeks that have increased the level of scrutiny of the nation’s athletes. In the first instance came the Danielle Williams saga. She is, along with the retired Brigitte Foster-Hylton, the most highly decorated 100m hurdler who the country has produced. She was disqualified for a false start at the national trials last June and ruled ineligible for selection, which decision was to be made in the boardroom. What happened after was the subject of a hotly contested debate as it was deemed that with the race at the trials declared null and void, everything associated, including the disqualification, should be viewed in the same light.

Meanwhile, Williams’ handlers were more occupied with seeking another route to the Doha event by preparing her to take the Diamond League title, which would guarantee a wild-card entry to the event. It could not have been an easy ride for them to maintain that focus in the midst of the negative commentary coming from her own administration. For it to have given the impression that even with the title, she was not certain of ­making the trip was most ­unfortunate. What was heard was that “it was not automatic” and that it would depend on affordability. When she eventually took the Diamond League title, all that negative ­commentary suddenly evaporated. Even before that, a release was published by the administration proclaiming that “experts” had advised that her eligibility for selection should not be contested because the ‘null and void’ concept should include her participation at the trials.

Could it have been that the administration acted in that manner because of an anticipated triumph in the Diamond League? Was it a face-saving exercise? One will never be able to confirm this, but it appears to be a conclusion not devoid of reason. What would be appropriate at this stage is to wish her the best and for the administration to offer sincere apologies that it had to come to this for justice to be served. It should not have been necessary for ‘experts’ to intervene when interpretation of the null-and-void call should lie within the understanding of any reasonable administrator.

The other item of debate rests with the provisional naming of 17-year-old World Under-20 double sprint champion Briana Williams to the Doha squad. This, despite an adverse analytical finding on a urine sample taken after she placed third in the 100m final at the trials. With the hearing set for September 23-25, two days before the start of the championships, it was felt that there would not be enough time for her to make the trip were she to be cleared. Foster’s Fairplay supports the ­decision taken by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA). To repeat the words of JAAA president Dr Warren Blake, in such an instance, “one is deemed innocent until proven guilty”. It would not be just to presume a sanctionable verdict until the case is heard.

One hopes that the two issues will not cast a pall over the performances in Doha. It is left to the team management to do what is within its competence to ensure that this does not happen. It could limit the team’s chances of the type of performance that is essential to maintaining our stature, notwithstanding the absence of the multiple champion, Usain Bolt.

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