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EDITORIAL - Get with the programme, JADCO

Published:Wednesday | August 7, 2013 | 12:00 AM

THIS NEWSPAPER hates that it finds itself in common cause with the likes of Victor Conte, who peddled banned substances to athletes and now profits from his notoriety.

But as uncomfortable as it is to concede, Conte, who was at the centre of the BALCO scandal, is right about the absence of transparency by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). And that, as this newspaper has long maintained, hurts Jamaica's reputation as a global athletic power.

JADCO's approach to providing information about its testing programme gives ammunition to people like Conte and Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), who want to believe that Jamaica's production of so many world-class track athletes is the result of cheating.

Indeed, the recent spate of positive drug tests against Jamaican athletes provided a new soapbox for the critics.

First, though, it bears repeating that Jamaica's top-class performances in world athletics is not a new phenomenon. More than 60 years ago, at the 1948 London Olympics, Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley were the stars of the sprints and middle-distance races.

Before the Bolts, Blakes, Campbell-Browns and Fraser-Pryces there were the Laings and the Quarries and then Otteys, Cuthberts and others.

The success of these several generations of athletes has its foundation in high-school athletics championships, of an intensity and competitiveness that is perhaps unrivalled anywhere in the world. A society of appropriate infrastructure has evolved over generations to support this programme.

None of the foregoing is to suggest that Jamaican athletes do not cheat and that we should not operate a system based on individual restraint.

While we do not believe that hardcore doping is a feature of Jamaican athletics, it is our view, though, that a robust and transparent programme of testing is not only a deterrent to drug cheating, but the best answer to the Contes and Pounds who may want to believe the worst.

Not Been Sufficiently Transparent

This is where we find congruence with Conte, who was jailed for distributing steroids and money laundering: JADCO has not been sufficiently transparent about its testing programme.

It was only last week, after our too-many appeals in these columns, and in the face of unfortunate global questioning of the legitimacy of our athletes, that JADCO's chairman, Dr Herb Elliott, caused it to dribble that the agency performed 106 tests in 2012, 68 of which were in competition. In the five years of its existence, JADCO conducted 860 tests - 504 in competition and 356 out of competition.

JADCO has not said, however, how many athletes were tested. Neither has JADCO provided a robust comparison of its testing programme against countries of a similar number of athletes. Nor has it said how many athletes missed drug tests. In any event, JADCO could put the suspicions beyond doubt by providing data on its testing of our elite track athletes, who would be identified as such.

The data we call for should be easy to collate and, in the context of today's ideal of transparent governance, should be easily accessible.

JADCO's failure to do this, we firmly believe, is not because it has anything to hide. Rather, it is subject, we believe, to an old-fashion leadership culture that is uncomfortable with transparency, hamstrung by a fear of criticism, and views the control of information as power.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.