Mon | Mar 27, 2023

Portia out of her lane: Parents wary of proposal to test high-school athletes but principal gives PM's plan thumbs up

Published:Thursday | July 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the testing of highschool athletes would be in accordance with appropriate approvals from the Ministry of Education, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association, and parents and guardians.

Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer

A proposal by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to subject high-school athletes to drug testing is not finding favour with some parents.

The proposal was put forward by Simpson Miller in Parliament on Tuesday, just days after news broke that five Jamaican athletes, including high-profile sprinters Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, had tested positive for banned substances.

Yesterday, Kirk Grey, who is making preparation to send his child to Wolmer's High School for Boys come September, said he found distasteful the idea of having his son - an avid sports competitor - tested for drugs in high school.

"For children at that age, it is more about the competition and less about the money. Athletes who are in the business for money, you will find them taking the drugs but not the children," Grey argued.

"To have them being tested paints a picture that Jamaica is a drug country and this is what our children are doing."


Grey suggested that instead of going that route, the Government should embark on a rigorous campaign to educate children about the dangers of drugs, particularly in sports.

"Just as how we know that children are having sex in schools and we refuse to give them condoms and choose instead to educate them about sex, I think it is the same thing," he said. "The testing needs to hold off at least for now, and start with the education aspect of it."

Another parent, Marsha Campbell-Clarke, while labelling the idea as "ridiculous", said she would want to be guided by an education campaign before taking a definitive stance on the matter.

"I am worried about whatever psychological impact this can have on my child and I don't like what it is saying about our children, but I would like to know more about it through whatever education campaign is there," Campbell-Clarke said.

"I mean, I still think it's ridiculous, but if that's the standard, I would not want my child to be deprived of his career because of how I feel."

The prime minister, during her statement to Parliament, had indicated that the Government would ramp up the public-education programme in high schools and begin the process of sensitising stakeholders at the primary level.

Simpson Miller added also that the testing of high-school athletes would be in accordance with appropriate approvals from the Ministry of Education, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), and parents and guardians.

Elaine Foster-Allen, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, said the proposal being put forward would have to be carefully thought through before any implementation takes place.

"We haven't had time to look at what would be the consequences of what (the prime minister) has said. We would need to sit down and to see what is necessary in regards to whether children ought to be tested or not. This is a matter which requires us to sit [and discuss] with our team and look at what are the likely consequences or impact of putting such a thing in place," said Foster-Allen.

"I am suggesting, too, that there is another side, and that is to ensure that our children make the right choices and that those who are in charge of them help them to make the right choices. There is a very important moral issue there," she added.

While some parents seem to disagree with the proposal, Everton Hannam, who speaks on behalf of parents under his mandate as president of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ), said the NPTAJ supports it "wholeheartedly".

"It is clear that our sports programme is taking a beating and any effort to protect our sports, in particular our athletics programme, is forward thinking," Hannam said.

He, too, stressed that this must be guided by education and discussions with parents.

Kingston College principal Dave Myrie, whose school has been a dominant figure in the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships over the years, also said he supported the proposal put forward.

"I have no problems with it because, in any case, a number of these athletes go to Carifta (Games) and are tested there anyhow," Myrie said. "I think there is no other way to go but to test at that level, so I have absolutely no problem with it."