‘It was very unfortunate’
WADA President Banka laments foul-up that impacted U20 women’s 4x100m world record
WITOLD BANKA, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has branded as “unfortunate” the manner in which Jamaica’s women’s 4x100 metres team was denied the junior world record at last year’s Carifta Games, especially as the violation did...
WITOLD BANKA, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has branded as “unfortunate” the manner in which Jamaica’s women’s 4x100 metres team was denied the junior world record at last year’s Carifta Games, especially as the violation did not breach the code established by his body, which is tasked with eliminating doping in sport.
The Jamaican quartet of twins Tia and Tina Clayton, along with Serena Cole and Brianna Lyston, laid down 42.58 seconds at the Carifta Games at the National Stadium in April, which was way faster than the world record of 42.94 seconds established by the Jamaicans in August 2021 at the World U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. That team comprised Cole, Kerrica Hill and the Claytons.
However, the 42.58 was not ratified by track and field’s world governing body, World Athletics, because “not all members were subjected to doping control” after the race.
The Jamaica team with the Claytons, Hill and Cole, eventually lowered the world record to 42.59 last August at the World Under-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia.
In an interview with The Gleaner, Banka commented on the situation when asked about their level of satisfaction with testing around Jamaica’s junior sports programme. The WADA boss, while stating that they have a good working relationship with the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO), admitted that there were some “mistakes”.
“The rules are equal for everyone, it’s not that there are different anti-doping rules in Jamaica and different in the region. We’ve harmonised the anti-doping rules so all our stakeholders have to follow the World Anti-Doping Code that regulates anti-doping policy,” said Banka.
Continuing, he noted: “So far, I can say that our collaboration with JADCO is okay. There are some mistakes, it happens, but when I look at (it), they work from our compliance perspective, they’re compliant. They’re doing quite a good job.”
Asked to comment further on those mistakes, it was then that Banka referenced the JADCO foul-up with testing of the 4x100m women’s team at Carifta.
“It was very unfortunate,” said Banka, a former Polish 400m sprinter.
“Let me clear this situation. It was not a (WADA) regulation that all athletes from the relay team have to be tested. It was very unfortunate from the athletes’ perspective, it was a very unfortunate situation and I’m so sorry with these young, great, great athletes,” he said.
James Fitzgerald, WADA’s head of media relations and communications, added some clarity while noting “It’s a sport-specific rule”.
Fitzgerald continued: “So WADA’s rules are across all sports and all countries. But each sport can have, on top of that, its own rules on anti-doping,, so long as they don’t contradict, so long as they’re still compliant with the code.
“So World Athletics has a rule that they won’t ratify a world record in the relay unless all four of the athletes are tested. That’s not a WADA rule, it’s a World Athletics rule. So it stands and, unfortunately in this case, the world record wasn’t ratified,” Fitzgerald added.
In the Carifta situation, only three of the athletes were tested by JADCO after the race, with the local body defending itself by saying Tina was omitted because she had been tested within the past 24 hours, this after winning the Under-20 100 metres the previous evening.
“I think it’s a relationship between the World Athletics and JADCO. There was some misunderstanding, lack maybe of knowledge,” Banka explained. “But what we’ve heard today in the press conference from the chairman of JADCO and Madame Minister after this difficult situation, this very unfortunate accident, they would place some investigation, regulations, training on the DCS (doping control system) to ensure this will never happen again.”
The press conference took place last Friday and followed a WADA forum that included nine Caribbean sports ministers and several other government officials from across the region, as WADA continues its efforts to strengthen anti-doping.
The two-day symposium was a follow-up to a virtual forum in 2022 for regional sporting leaders. Banka encouraged governments to double down on anti-doping efforts, implement more robust testing strategies, ensure athletes are properly educated on the subject, and ensure that they have a strong legal framework, given that all the cases are decided before a tribunal.
The WADA president also emphasised his support for sport-specific rules like the one that impacted Jamaica’s world record result.
“We have 700 co-signatories, so it would not be possible to regulate who has been tested in all disciplines in all sports,” he said. “It’s good that the federations have internal regulations. We are okay with that.”