Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
The beleaguered Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) is about to name a new executive director (ED), almost nine months since the last permanent holder of that position was fired.
JADCO has come under increased scrutiny in recent months following a rash of positive doping tests by Jamaican athletes and a series of damaging articles published locally and internationally by the former executive director, Renée Anne Shirley, which exposed weaknesses within the commission's testing programme.
Then just this week, it was reported that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is to conduct an "extraordinary" audit of Jamaica's testing of its athletes between February and July 2012 when the commission failed to conduct out-of-competition tests leading up to the London Olympics.
Other challenges faced by the commission included filling several key positions that will enable the entity to be compliant with internationally accepted standards.
The appointment of an executive director moves JADCO a step closer to meeting those standards.
Natalie Neita-Headley, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for sports, yesterday confirmed that the position, which was occupied between May and mid-August 2013 by four-time Olympian Cathy Rattray Samuel, has been filled.
"I have been advised by the board of commissioners that they have reached the point of selection. They seem to have done all the due diligence and are comfortable with the gentleman who they have selected," the minister said, declining to reveal a name.
"It's someone who has strong administrative and managerial skills, and that's really what we need now to be able to pull JADCO together and push it forward."
The new appointee will have to hit the ground running, given the challenges being faced by the commission and the increased international scrutiny triggered by eight positive doping tests since the start of the year. These include Olympians Veronica Campbell Brown, Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson, Traves Smikle, Allison Randall, and martial artist Kenneth Edwards.
"The new ED will have to ensure that all of our plans are executed on time and within the rules and regulations and to ensure that we are compliant, and where we fall short that we make up quickly," Neita-Headley said.
She emphasised that among the immediate tasks of the new executive director is the implementation of a strong education programme.
"The new ED will put in place a stronger programme of education, which is really my focus and the focus of the board of commissioners. We will be working closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure that we put in place as part of the physical education curriculum in schools, this notion of anti-doping and good nutrition," she said. "Those will be his primary focus, but also to pull the organisation together and to ensure that it runs fluently."