Doping dilemma - Samuda, Crowne share views on validity of jail time for drug cheats
Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president Christopher Samuda says that any measures to criminalise doping in Jamaica would depend on the frequency of offences committed by the athlete.
Samuda’s statements follow a Reuters report from December 3 which says that Kenya will introduce legislation that will see criminal penalties, including jail sentences, for those caught doping. Kenya’s Sport Minister Amina Mohamed says a team was working on crafting the law that will see doping become a criminal offence by mid 2020. At present, Kenyan law assigns jail terms of up to three years for administrative staff found guilty in relation to doping, but there are none for athletes. Kenya was forced into creating the law in 2016 when the country faced possible expulsion from the Rio Olympics due to various incidents of doping from 2004-2018.
Russia has also been in the news lately with regard to doping. The country has appealed the decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to administer a four-year ban from various international competitions, after the global doping governing body concluded that the country had manipulated previous doping cases. That ruling was handed down on December 9.
Samuda says that he understands why there is a point of view for the action to carry jail sentences.
“I know that there are persons who are of the view that because of the incident of drug abuse you should in fact meet it with criminal sanctions to ensure that it is [used as] a deterrent against those who may engage in it or who are engaging in it habitually,” he told The Gleaner. “And I can understand it. If you have somebody who is habitually in error, in other words, the person is continuously administrating drugs that are not permissible and that are detrimental to athletes and others, then clearly you are going to take a far more extreme approach than someone who is guilty of a one off. So you have to look at the circumstances to see whether they are extreme.”
Various countries have moved to assigned jail sentences to penalties for athletes and persons involved in the practice. Of note, Germany ratified legislation in 2015, giving athletes three-year sentences for those who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, or found in possession of the substances, with those guilty of providing them facing up to 10 years.
But Samuda cautions that any anti-doping legislation must not be done in haste, and also to make sure that the rights of the athlete are upheld. It would involve the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) and the Ministry of Sport.
“I would imagine if you going to have an extreme position, all stakeholders are going [to have] to come to the table,” Samuda said.
Sports Lawyer Dr Emir Crowne is against any move to criminalise doping, believing that implementation would not be able to prove intent, which would be the basis of majority of the cases.
“If you were to criminalise doping, you may well have a situation where the act of doping is proven,” Crowne said. “There maybe direct evidence of doping, but for whatever reason, you cannot prove that there is an intent to cheat, a guilty mind then to cheat. And then the athlete gets away.”
Crowne goes further to say that it undermines the authority of WADA and would restore previous criticism of policing doping being left up to individual states.
“A big part of why there is a sort of centralised, globalised anti-doping regime is because it was felt that you can’t really leave the policing of doping to individual countries,” he said. “Because countries may well not prosecute something, or not go after a case if it involves one of their promising athletes, or star athletes and so on. So that’s why WADA is super national. It sort of takes the policing out the hands of individual states, and centralises it through WADA and the world anti-doping code.”
The Gleaner contacted Sport Minister Olivia Grange, and her adviser, Allie McNab. However, both were unavailable for comment on the issue.