Veronica's big blow
By George Davis
The first sentence of C. Everard Palmer's 1984 adolescent-flavoured novel My Father Sun-Sun Johnson has been etched into my memory, perhaps forever. It says, simply, 'I was there when the blow fell.'
The second sentence set the trap for the image the writer wanted you the reader to begin conjuring. It said, "And Father took it like a man."
Those 14 words did more than paint a picture of someone suffering an almighty slap to the face or being poleaxed by a sickening strike to the head.
It suggested that the dignity of the person was also damaged, given that the blow fell not in private, but in full view of some close relation. In other words, the person couldn't lie about the severity of the blow or downplay the significance of the blow in the moment they received it.
Even worse for the person suffering the blow is the fact that the watching relative or loved one will always remember the physical effect of the blow and the long-term psychological damage. In many respects, the person receiving the blow, regardless of the outpouring of love and affection alongside the reassurances, may have a lingering feeling that they'll never again be held in high esteem by the person who saw them being struck.
It would be interesting to know where our champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown, was and who she was with when she first learned that her A-sample from the May 4 meet at the National Stadium in Kingston had returned a positive result for a banned diuretic.
Shock to disbelief to grief
It would be interesting to learn how long her body was in stasis and the cascade of emotions, from shock to disbelief to grief. Although there's much ground to cover in this most unfortunate episode, what is sure is that the girl from Trelawny who has matured into an alpha female in the athletics world has suffered a blow. A terrible blow, which has given the professional haters and their camp followers an incentive to daub with excrement the 16 major medals and the unquantifiable joy she has given Jamaicans in a legendary career.
Whatever Veronica is doing now, the blow must still be hurting and giving her febrile dreams of the Jamaican nation, dragged unwillingly into an arena where she's being paraded as a drug cheat.
It's entirely reasonable to assume that this blow has caused our Veronica to grieve not for her reputation and the lasting damage which may accompany it when this nightmare plays out.
No. The grief, even at this early stage, stems from the disappointment of her Jamaican family knowing not that she's guilty, but that her name could be linked to the use of a banned substance at a time in her career when she has cemented her standing as one of the cleanest champions track and field has ever seen.
So her fans, all of us, want to hear more than yesterday's brief, impersonal press release by her manager Claude Bryan. We want her to give us something to believe in. Something that will give us gusto when we talk about the mothers, body parts and appearance of those who'll attack her credibility and seek to desecrate her career.
For the international organisations and individuals who've sometimes justifiably questioned the integrity of Jamaica's drug-testing regime, this is a blow, that to them, should take VCB out of the fray. For them, anything but a meaty suspension would send a wrong signal about the sincerity of the fight against doping in sport.
Suddenly, the delivery of this blow to Veronica provides an "I told you so" moment to those who've been 'carrying news' for years that our athletic excellence has to be drug-fuelled. They will design and instal a personal cloud over the heads of all previous and subsequent world-beating performances by Bolt, Blake, Fraser-Pryce, et al. For them, it was moment of sheer joy the instant the blow fell.
The opening sentence on her website notes, that in athletics circles, the name Veronica Campbell-Brown is synonymous with history. At this very dark moment for her and her Jamaican family, the question is whether this blow will do more damage than simply knock her off her stride.