Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
IF the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Jamaica can find a date that can be mutually agreed on before the end of the year, then WADA is free to visit.
So says Natalie Neita-Headley, the minister with responsibility for sports, in response to WADA's expressed disappointment at having to wait until next year to come in to conduct an audit of Jamaica's drug-testing programme.
Accepting an invitation from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in August, WADA had proposed dates of October 15 and 16 to come in to conduct an audit of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission's (JADCO) testing of Jamaica's athletes between February and July 2012, when the commission conducted minimal out-of-competition testing leading up to the London Olympics.
Reacting to the information in a story published in Sports Illustrated in August, written by former JADCO Executive Director Anne Shirley, that very few out-of-competition tests were done by the commission during that period, WADA Director General David Howman had expressed concern.
AGGRESSIVELY TESTED BY IAAF
However, during the period, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had aggressively tested Jamaica's athletes.
"It is abundantly clear that the testing of Jamaican athletes before London was extensive and thorough - and continues to be so today," IAAF spokesman Chris Turner told international news agency Reuters.
Turner said in 2012, Jamaica had 19 athletes in the IAAF-registered testing pool (RTP) who were tested 126 times, an average of 6.63 tests for each athlete. By comparison, 43 US athletes in the 2012 pool were tested 222 times, an average of 5.16. Thirty-two Jamaica athletes were tested multiple times in 2012 by the IAAF, Turner said.
Neita-Headley told The Gleaner yesterday that while they would love to have WADA visit as soon as possible, several key persons would not be available should the visit occur now.
She said much work was being put into preparing case files for the upcoming hearings for the five athletes who returned adverse findings following the National Senior Championships in June.
Neita-Headley said she and some JADCO executives were going to be among members of a Jamaican delegation that would be attending a WADA Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, between November 12 and 15.
According to Neita-Headley, it was for these reasons that January 2014 was proposed as a good time to visit.
Howman, however, speaking with the international media, said those were not sufficient excuses. His comments prompted the minister to suggest that if a mutually agreeable date can be found, then WADA was free to visit. After all, the minister said, the sooner the situation is resolved, the better.
"It is disheartening for us," she said of the positive tests that have sullied Jamaica's reputation in recent times. "I hate for people to have the notion that our athletes are doing well because of doping."