Thu | Dec 5, 2019

Laurie Foster | JAAA, NACAC must defend athletes

Published:Wednesday | November 13, 2019 | 12:27 AM
Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association President Dr Warren Blake (left) in discussion with World Athletics President Sebastian Coe on his arrival in Jamaica through the Norman Manley International Airport, during a visit in June 2017.
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World Athletics, formerly the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), the world governing body of track and field, has issued a ruling that will have a strong negative effect on the earning potential of some of the nation’s athletes.

It is to remove four events from the prestigious Diamond League circuit. The cited events are both genders of the 200m, the discus throw, the 3000m steeplechase and the triple jump.

Some of the athletes who compete under the Jamaica flag likely to be affected include Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson, Shericka Jackson, Yohan Blake, Akeem Bloomfield, Rasheed Dwyer, all in the half-lap event; Fedrick Dacres and Traves Smikle in the discus, Aisha Praught-Leer, the country’s sole world-class steepler, and the two triple jumpers, Kimberly Williams and Shanequa Ricketts, who have been finalists at the global level for some time, the latter earning a silver medal at the recent World Championships.

Foster’s Fairplay is acutely aware that the needs of the television networks, who underwrite the costs of staging the Diamond League events, have to be considered. How else could those charges, as well as athletes’ appearance and prize monies be met? There is no contention there.

However, could another way be found to allow the athletes so denied the additional opportunity to build their careers with the type of repetitive competition that exists at the elite level?

The release from the IAAF mentioned that the events to be cut will be staged at 10 of the stops on the circuit, but it goes on to say that there is no staging of the events which have been cut at the season-ending and lucrative finals, which now take place in Brussels and Zurich.

STAND AS ONE

There are athletes training at a lower level than those mentioned and who see themselves as future champions in the sidelined events, who will also be affected. The cut will rob them of the chances of which they have been having legitimate dreams.

The area of the Americas of which Jamaica is a part carries a powerful lobby, but they have to stand as one in order to oppose this move by the IAAF.

That body can ill-afford to ignore a voice of unity coming from this region. It can have a meaningful effect as far as a voting process to elect the IAAF’s hierarchy is concerned.

Foster’s Fairplay pleads with the president of the local body, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) Dr Warren Blake to convene a meeting with the heads of the member states of this region. Their objective should be to lobby the IAAF in order to temper this move in the interest of all the athletes of the region who are now on preparation to be at the Diamond League level next season.

Athletes from the USA, including many-time triple jump World Champion Christian Taylor and the UK’s 200m World Champion Dina Asher-Smith, have spoken out against the new ruling. It would be surprising if their countries, which are major powers, do not support an initiative which runs counter to the IAAF’S thinking.

Mr President, the dynamics of sponsorship and television rights are well understood, but so are the needs of our emerging and current talent. They either currently, or aspire to, depend on the expected benefits of the Diamond League to fund their lives and those of their families. They are professionals, this is the way they eat and pay their other living expenses. To cut their earning power smacks of injustice of monumental proportions.

Foster’s Fairplay is not convinced that the future of these athletes who perform in the sliced events has to be along the lines which the world governing body has ruled. It should be seeking to offer them more competition and not less.

Again, Mr President, the ball is in your court and that of your friends in the Americas. We urge you to make your collective voices heard in opposing this new rule which has the capacity to shatter the dreams of the athletes, the most important players in the sport over which you exercise jurisdiction in our country.

For feedback: Email:lauriefoster2012@gmail.com.