Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Budgetary constraints prevented the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) from filling critical vacancies at the agency which in some ways contributed to the challenges it now faces.
This is the word from Minister Natalie Neita-Headley, minister without portfolio with responsibility for sports in the Office of the Prime Minister, who addressed the media yesterday following the departure of a three-member team from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which arrived on Monday to conduct an audit of JADCO's operations.
The visit was initiated by an invitation extended to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the World Anti-Doping Agency by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller following a rash of positive drug tests returned by Jamaican athletes between June and July this year. The matter took on international attention after an article in August that laid bare weaknesses within JADCO that resulted in the agency conducting one out-of-competition test between February 2012 and the national championships that was held in June that year.
Among the weaknesses were vacant staff positions critical to the successful running of the commission.
"We would have had some budgetary constraints last year (2012). A review of the operations was done to determine what positions were, in fact, needed. Those positions, however, were not vacant. They were being filled by other persons playing dual roles. We now believe it would have been high time to have persons specifically for those roles," said Minister Neita-Headley during a press briefing yesterday at JADCO's offices in Half-Way Tree.
The ability to fill those positions and do even more would have been aided by a 14 per cent increase in JADCO's budget for the current financial year, and there is more support to come.
As such, a new executive director was recently named and there is a recruitment drive to fill five of the nine existing vacancies. The minister said they expect to fill all positions over the next two months as JADCO seeks to improve its operations.
"Our focus going forward is on strengthening and building capacity in collaboration with our partners. Our training and public-education programme and testing programmes stand to benefit from support from CHASE, the IAAF and WADA," the minister said.
There will also be significant focus on improving its communication arm. Staff for that section has already been hired, Gleaner sources say. They will help improve the capabilities of the agency in disseminating information to the public. The minister admitted that was an area of weakness.