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EDITORIAL - The JAAA must confront its demons

Published:Friday | November 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dr Winston Dawes, veteran physician and outgoing fourth vice-president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), knows a dying patient when he sees one. And his diagnosis of that organisation, in Thursday's Gleaner, is dire, especially if it fails to take its medication.

With the sudden death last year of Howard 'Fudge' Aris, whose statesmanship commanded respect, the wheels seem to have fallen off the JAAA. Fortunately, this has not been reflected in the performance of Jamaica's athletes, who achieved a record haul of 12 medals at the London Olympics, led by superstar Usain Bolt.

Exactly 12 months since Aris' death, the JAAA has imploded - descending from an august body into a roadside market with hawkers outshouting each other about the deficient quality of their competitors' wares. Of course, conflict in the JAAA is not unprecedented, as the old-boys' club treasures the spoils and influence that accompany Olympic glory.

We would have hoped that the leadership election of the JAAA would have been centred on securing a mandate on a cerebral platform for modernising and monetising track and field, but it has been enveloped by a sideshow between Donald Quarrie, technical director at the London Games, and famed sprint coach Glen Mills.

Both men have made sterling contributions to the development of track and field in this country. Mr Quarrie, who won Olympic sprint gold in 1976, has helped to build the island's reputation in sport - on the track, and in administration. Glen Mills coaches the highly successful Racers Track Club, which has mentored outstanding athletes, the most notable being Mr Bolt and the hot-on-his-heels Yohan Blake.

At a time when Jamaica would want to build on its athletics legacy, the squabble between Mr Quarrie and Mr Mills has earned bad press and goes against their character - at least, in public.

The row has been fuelled by an exhumation of decades-old rumour and counterclaim which reminds this newspaper of Dorothy Lightbourne's bizarre grudge against Mr K.D. Knight for kicking her chair three decades ago, an allegation he has denied.

The veracity of either account by Mr Quarrie or Mr Mills does not particularly concern us, because their crosstalk is parenthetical to the main plot: grooming athletes and improving their skills to world-class levels, and developing the physical and administrative infrastructure for Jamaica to optimally benefit from the multibillion-dollar global sports industry.

escalating conflict

We urge JAAA President Dr Warren Blake, whose name has been central to the Mills-Quarrie dispute, to seek out impartial and widely regarded mediators to intervene in the escalating conflict. The fracture, as Dr Dawes pointed out, damages the image of the JAAA, which needs to project a united front and cohesive vision to woo sponsorship.

The divisiveness also has real dangers for the country's future. It is not unforeseen that depending on who wins the election, critics, regardless of their individual or collective competencies, will be ostracised and undermined. Jamaican track and field will be the loser.

Despite their personal ambitions, the JAAA executive members should sheathe their daggers.

What should now replace the 'cass-cass' tabloid headlines is an examination of the manifestos of the three candidates for leadership - Dr Blake, Ms Grace Jackson and Mr Lincoln Eatmon - including whether they have concrete plans for promoting a culture of transparency and fiduciary integrity.

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