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Francis backs medical exemption ... but MVP coach says process must be properly managed

Published:Tuesday | August 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM
MVP Track Club head coach Stephen Francis issues instructions a training session of MVP athletes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday.


MVP head coach, Stephen Francis, while reporting that his athletes, Janieve Russell and Elaine Thompson, are in good shape following recent injuries, believes Jamaica should retain the medical exemption system, even if he thinks it is not being properly managed.

Francis, who arrived in Rio de Janeiro with his group on Monday night, is strongly against the setting of deadlines to prove fitness, especially in cases where the athlete involved carries greater medal prospects than the alternative.

Both Russell (400m hurdles) and Thompson (200m) were granted medical exemptions for Jamaica's Olympic trials from the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) a month ago after suffering injuries and have been told that they must prove their fitness by August 8 at 11 a.m., if they are to be selected to represent their country.

They were named to the team, along with the top-three finishers in their respective events at the trials. However, only three athletes can represent any country in a single event, meaning that a decision has to be made to determine whether or not the spot will go to the third-placed finishers at trials in the Women's 400m hurdles (Kaliese Spencer) and the 200m (Kali Davis-White), or to Russell and Thompson, respectively.

"I mean, Jamaica, in all the cases, should understand that if you have a medical exemption, you do it presumably because you want the people who have been given the exemption, who have proven themselves to be prime medal contenders, to be in the best shape as possible," Francis reasoned.

"If you are not going to do that, don't bother with the exemption, just tell them that if they miss the trials, they will miss the team. But don't tell me that I can get a bye to prepare myself to be in great shape and then tell me that I need to run there and there and there.

"Especially when you are talking about people who you are putting in, who based on current form have zero chance of doing anything," said Francis.




"The medical exemption rule is a good one for Jamaica ... it's clear that it's useful, but you have to know how to manage it. As I said, to be telling and imposing guidelines or deadlines is pointless. The person or persons who are going to replace them, can they do justice in comparison to the others?"

He added: "For instance, (Hansle) Parchment is the only other possible medallist we have apart from (Omar) McLeod (in the 110m hurdles). He won a medal at the last Olympics, he was doing extremely well this year - the best start he has ever had. I fail to see why you are hustling Parchment to go and run when you have a person there whose season best is like 13.4 despite running over and over, up and down the place trying to run fast.

"I mean, (Andrew) Riley is good, and it's unfortunate for him that he is not in his best shape now.




"It's the same situation with Janieve (Russell), she is more than a second faster than anyone else in Jamaica, she is unbeaten all year. She has run four races and 'PB-ed' four times, so I don't understand the need to rush the issue, especially when the people who you are talking about are not, on current form, in their league," he shared.

Francis, who noted that he had no issue meeting the JAAA's demand that the athletes in question face a physical test and observation in order to prove their fitness once it does not affect his training programme, argued, too, that the established August 8 deadline defeated the purpose of the medical exemption.

"There is no reason for that because they have until the day before the event to declare; they can wait until. If the hurdles start on the 15th, they can wait until the 14th, so there is no good reason for that except to set up some bureaucratic guidelines to satisfy themselves," Francis said.

"If you want Parchment to go out and win a medal, you have to give him the time to get himself fit because you know that if he is at 95 percent, he is still a better medal chance in comparison to the person who is in contention for the space."