A few years ago, a certain Carl Lewis made some damning pronouncements about Jamaica's track-and-field programme. He was clearly suspicious about our drug-testing regimes, and I understood exactly where he was coming from.
Lewis earned the wrath of many Jamaicans who felt that he, of all people, shouldn't be the one to come and preach about others and their possible drug use, since his past wasn't exactly squeaky clean.
I remember being at pains on radio then to say that we must forget the messenger and focus on the message. I was taken to task for merely suggesting that, maybe, just maybe, Carl had a point, and we needed to clean up our act.
Some Jamaicans, many in the media, behaved towards Carl the same way some parents behave when a stranger complains to them about the bad behaviour of their beloved children. Many parents simply refuse to accept that sweet, little Johnny or Mary would engage in the kinds of acts the complainant speaks about, and oftentimes they end up 'cussing' out the complainant, usually referring to his complaints as just plain 'bad mind'.
After that, Victor Conte himself was making some utterances, again casting aspersions against us, and our attitude towards drug testing, which we were not happy to hear. Again, we engaged in one of our favourite pastimes: lambasting the bearer of bad news, without taking into account that Conte may well be saying things which we could find useful.
Conte's own sordid past made him almost persona non grata here in Jamaica. Again, many of us were quick to write him off as just another American with an axe to grind against the sprint capital of the world.
A few days ago, former executive director of Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO), R. Anne Shirley, made damning revelations, which, in many ways, were not much different from what we were hearing from the 'bad-mind' Americans. Anne Shirley spoke about the inefficiencies at JADCO when she took over, and, among other startling revelations, we were told that a full three months before the London Olympics, there was not one single out-of-competition testing!
She also spoke about Dr Herb Elliott's refusal to respond to reporters about the number of drug tests over a particular time frame, because he didn't want athletes to know the number done! If those things are true, I don't know how Jamaicans expect the rest of the world not to be suspicious of us and our athletes.
baying for blood
In the typical knee-jerk response, Ms Shirley is now being taken to task in many quarters. Many still don't want to hear the things she is saying. She couldn't be written off as a 'bad-mind' American, but was now seen to be a bitter woman who had fallen out with her colleagues at JADCO and is now baying for blood in an attempt to discredit them.
Even if that were true, I have zero concerns about that. Ms Shirley's motive is neither here nor there to me (she was forced to resign by the Herb Elliott-chaired JADCO because of irreconcilable differences with staff); the credibility of what she is saying is. As long as what she is saying is true, the rest of Jamaica should take heed.
Jamaica's reputation is taking a pounding, and if we had started to act with a greater degree of professionalism when the so-called 'bad-mind' Americans started voicing their concerns a few years ago, we wouldn't be suffering the repercussions now.
People like Carl Lewis and Victor Conte may well be having a snicker somewhere right now.
What is frightening is that we are now hearing that if we don't get our house in order, we could be thrown out of future global meets. That, in itself, is unthinkable.
We may well feel that we are doing all we can to ensure our athletes are clean, but justice sometimes is not only what is done, but what is seen to be done. Whatever it is that we have to do to convince the doubters that we are serious about drug testing, particularly out of competition, we need to do that now.
The naysayers may well be 'bad-mind', but if we neva give dem supm fi talk bout, dem wouldn have nuttn fi say!
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host at KLAS FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.