Fri | Apr 27, 2018

Corner dark

Published:Thursday | June 20, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Hubert Lawrence
Veronica Campbell-Brown - file

The last time our corner was this dark was 1999. Sprint queen Merlene Ottey tested positive for a banned substance on the eve of the World Championships in Seville, Spain. She withdrew from the Jamaica team and fought to restore her good name. Sadly, history has repeated itself with Veronica Campbell-Brown at centre stage.

Then, as now, there was shock and indignation. Some rose in defence. Others sharpened their swords to carve up the secrets to Jamaican success in athletics. That story had a happy ending. The case against Merlene was overturned. That's the outcome Veronica will be hoping for.

Merlene had the help of a high-powered support team that included legal and science experts. Maybe that's what Veronica needs, too.

VCB has been at the centre of a golden age for Jamaican athletics. Three Olympic gold medals and world titles at 100 and 200 metres make her one of the most successful sprinters of her era. Never has she come home from a major championship empty-handed.


The matter might have passed more quietly if the accused wasn't one of our heavy hitters, but this is Veronica.

Her integrity has never been questioned ... until now. The truth is that she isn't in this alone. If she goes down, Jamaica's reputation will be damaged.

In fact, in the period of time between the announcement of the positive tests and the hoped for restoration of her good name, people will draw their own conclusions and, to paraphrase the radio commentator Art Linkletter, say the 'darndest' things.

That's par for the course. Think of the things people have said about stars of the past, even in the absence of positive drug tests. Skepticism abounds and anyone who excels is under the microscope.

Veronica and all who support her will need a thick skin to endure the burning spotlight while the case comes to a conclusion.

Look at it from the other side. It's probably hard for them to understand how a small country with limited resources could be so successful in sprinting. This is the question behind the pointing fingers. This is why some people won't give her a chance.

Fortunately, the process has a built-in provision for Veronica to explain. If she can table substantial evidence, then this race can finish better than it has started.

The VCB issue has arisen at the worst of times in Jamaican football. The Reggae Boyz have lost four in a row in World Cup Qualifying, and Theodore Whitmore has lost his job as national coach because of those results.

For me, it was shocking to see home fans leave early during the matches against Mexico and the USA. Disaffection with the coach and his tactics and the Jamaica Football Federation are the explanations received. Thankfully, Jamaicans have been far more supportive of Veronica.

Clearly, she's been far more successful. The Boyz still have a mathematical chance, but they haven't qualified for the World Cup since 1998.

In the meantime, Veronica has won almost everything important in the world of sprinting. The only missing medal is the Olympic gold for 100 metres.

Right now, she may need a little more than support from a distance. She may just need an expert team of sports medicine practitioners, lawyers and communicators to bolster her presentation to those who will review her case.

Even if all this turns out to be a big mistake, she will need faith to endure the days ahead.

During this week's National Championships, her fellow athletes will be sure to face piercing questions about her and Jamaican athletics in general. That's to be expected. Everyone will want to know what they think.

The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association will have to look again at its programme of educating athletes about doping control.

If an experienced practitioner like Veronica could run into trouble, then refinements are needed.

For now, we turn to Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the rest of our elite athletes to save the day with fine performances at the Nationals that we can smile about.

For the time being, in the dark corner, that's all we can hope for.

Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.