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Jamaica's athletes reputation has hit rock bottom

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Jamaica's athletes reputation has hit rock bottom

By Michael A. Grant, Guest Columnist
Jamaica Gleaner
Sunday August 4, 2013

WITH THE recent news that one of the senior Reggae Boyz has returned an adverse analytical finding, Jamaica's reputation for noble, hard-working athletes, fuelled only by reggae rhythm and yellow yam, has hit rock bottom. We now stand squarely in the age of the Jamaican drug scandal, waiting for each new revelation to tarnish and redefine the new golden age of the island's athletics.

At every turn, the drug-detection czars congratulate themselves about how fine their new techniques and tools are, and ask onlookers to behold the big fish they're now reeling in. Journalists, including Jamaican ones, seem thrilled to follow along uncritically, as if they had always secretly suspected that little Jamaica could never legally have become so dominant in athletics. The sports fan, who has been lied to so often in so many other areas of life, has no choice but to join in the condemnation, saddened and angry that one more thing can't be trusted. "If you choose to cheat," says Sebastian Coe, "the technology is there to make sure that our sport is clean and is competed all with integrity." There is something missing from this picture, especially if Coe believes that the recent high-profile cases 'chose to cheat'.


We didn't get here by accident. Much of the current situation owes its origin to the ancient ideals of athletics, which sought to keep money and unfair physical advantages out of the sport, while trusting each nation to police its own athletes. Then, amateurs became pros; the early mushroom and strychnine abusers evolved into users of all kinds of chemical boosters, and worst of all, East Germany refused to allow scrutiny of its performance-enhancing drug (PED) activities in the 1960s. Before long, the detection of drug cheats in sport had become a joke, giving rise to shady Eastern Europeans programmes of the 1970s. The United States authorities, desperate to keep up in the athletic arms race, have allegedly overlooked several infractions by marquee athletes since that time.

Enter World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999 at the dawn of the new millennium, determined to regain lost prestige and muscle. Money and technology poured into the testing body from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world governments. Where the old detection was being done in thousandths, substances could routinely be divined in millionths.

Local authorities, anxious to overcompensate in societies where fairness is rare, now can't wait to throw the book at 'infractions' in which athletes have used no more than what they thought was a harmless 'sex pill', cough medicine, joint cream, muscle balm, toothache remedy or asthma medication. We should never forget that athletes have regular maladies just like we do, and aren't actually trying to improve athletic performance with everything they ingest. Some commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that professionals like Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, who are all at or near 30, will do anything to retain or regain top spots in the sport. Their careers will all soon be over, the theory goes, so they must be risking it all and operating at the brink of detection.


After they conquered the 'cream' (mostly testosterone) and 'the clear' (tetrahydrogestrinone), the substances that will forever define the most notorious era in track and field, I expected that WADA would use all that technology and organizational capability to educate and help athletes stay clean and engaged in the sport - not throw them out of it.

Dr Louise Burke, from the Department of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, has said emphatically that because of the poor standards governing nutritional supplements, "it is impossible to identify supplements and sports foods that are risk-free". She goes on to say that since athletes are responsible for their intake, then major changes in education of athletes and everyone who handles them is required. Why, then, is WADA so pleased with itself, like some kind of croupier at a rigged casino game, before such change has been achieved? Are we supposed to become so ashamed for our athletes that 'vitamin gotcha' is the only sport left to cheer?

Essentially, the whole business seems to be led by technology, not justice. In law, you have to connect alleged actions logically in order to get at the truth. But in doping detection, there's a huge difference between sports justice and regular justice, which recognises only one crime, accepts very few extenuating circumstances, yet doles out a variety of punishments, many career-ending. In other words, since the suspect usually stops competing or is suspended - effectively losing most of a season's revenues and rankings regardless of the outcome - everyone with a positive finding is effectively punished. Most world courts would call this arbitrary and capricious, kind of like hanging someone for theft of something that only cost a penny, then using the same rope to dispatch a mass murderer. But don't laugh yet; Charles Dickens described a British legal system in the 1800s that saw no problem in executing an adolescent for swiping a gentleman's handkerchief. It took a more evolved review and revision of objective justice in the law to change those standards.


This evolution needs to happen now before it's too late (for those unclear about when that is, it's just after Usain Bolt uses the wrong eye drops). Every sports fan, including this writer, has had his or her own moment of thinking, "can that athlete be legally this fast or strong?" but it is time to insist that the system of finding and removing dopers in sport be fair and seem to be fair - you know, the way regular justice strives to be. A sport that represents perhaps the highest standard of human physical achievement cannot be policed exclusively by supercomputers, MDs and PhDs who don't care if athletes are clueless about what they're taking; everyone involved with athletes must help them stay clean. Additionally, the dope-catchers must expand their current database of legal substances or allow an international athletes' union to do so, and get every new entry officially blessed before anyone uses them.


From all indications, the three Jamaican Olympians appear to be the most humble, traditionally raised, honourable people who have ever worn the national colours. Is it not possible that athletes at that 'advanced age' are actually so successful that they want to maintain peak health - and can afford to do it by spending and searching more aggressively?

Marion Jones never failed a drug test, and so she blithely denied that she got her regular 'fix' from BALCO via commercial courier, complete with dosage calendar and instructions. Ben Johnson, with jaundiced eyes and raging acne, admitted to taking injections of stanozolol as he radically transformed his physique and 100-metre performances. That's the kind of thing we should call doping, when you gamble big and actively seek a chemical edge. You still have to work hard, of course, but your capacity to build muscle, train more vigorously and recover more quickly is the payoff. The great sporting bodies should not let nutritional supplements trip up their best athletes, sidelining them, stigmatising them and shaming them without at least some determination of their intent. On this score, Lord Coe, head of the Organising Committee for the London 2012 Olympics, has it wrong. Saying that athletes are responsible for their intake might sound great, but it places the burden of proof on the accused, which really should have gone away entirely after the Middle Ages. The system, even though it has well-known investigative techniques available, chooses lazy medieval reasoning instead of modern law.

The net effect of unjust justice is that the names of Blake, Fraser-Pryce and others are being listed in the same breath with those of disgraced athletes like Marion Jones and Ben Johnson because they all have had a bad test in common, but without the context. The problem is that the writers rattling off the names do not tend to mention exoneration or accidental ingestion. An adverse finding leaves you guilty forever, no matter the circumstances. It isn't fair. At least the poor little Dickensian pickpockets knew they were doing something wrong.

Michael A. Grant is author of several books, including (with Hubert Lawrence and Bryan Cummings) 'The Power & The Glory: Jamaica in World Athletics, from WWII to the Diamond League Era'.



What a piss-weak series of lazy arguments.

The current laws about which the author complains have evolved due to attempts by competitors in a variety of sports to pass the buck onto support personel, club officials and non-official sources of information. We have seen similar such action by the Essendon Football Club in their attempts to exculpate players by shifting blame to a variety of club officials for the potential use of WADA code-breaching substances, despite the strict liability principles in the WADA code.

From the code (also now adopted in full by the VAL):

The following constitute anti-doping rule violations:
2.1 Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in an Athlete’s Sample

2.1.1 It is each Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his or her body. Athletes are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their Samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an antidoping violation under Article 2.1.
[Comment to Article 2.1.1: For purposes of anti-doping rule violations involving the presence of a Prohibited Substance (or its Metabolites or Markers), the Code adopts the rule of strict liability which was found in the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code (“OMADC”) and the vast majority of pre-Code anti-doping rules. Under the strict liability principle, an Athlete is responsible, and an anti-doping rule violation occurs, whenever a Prohibited Substance is found in an Athlete’s Sample. The violation occurs whether or not the Athlete intentionally or unintentionally Used a Prohibited Substance or was negligent or otherwise at fault.
The strict liability rule for the finding of a Prohibited Substance in an Athlete's Sample, with a possibility that sanctions may be modified based on specified criteria, provides a reasonable balance between effective anti-doping enforcement for the benefit of all "clean" Athletes and fairness in the exceptional circumstance where a Prohibited Substance entered an Athlete’s system through No Fault or Negligence or No Significant Fault or Negligence on the Athlete’s part. It is important to emphasize that while the determination of whether the anti-doping rule violation has occurred is based on strict liability, the imposition of a fixed period of Ineligibility is not automatic. The strict liability principle set forth in the Code has been consistently upheld in the decisions of CAS.]

2.2 Use or Attempted Use by an Athlete of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method

2.2.1 It is each Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his or her body. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping rule violation for Use of a Prohibited Substance or a Prohibited Method.

[Comment to Article 2.2: It has always been the case that Use or Attempted Use of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method may be established by any reliable means. As noted in the Comment to Article 3.2 (Methods of Establishing Facts and Presumptions), unlike the proof required to establish an anti-doping rule violation under Article 2.1, Use or Attempted Use may also be established by other reliable means such as admissions by the Athlete, witness statements, documentary evidence, conclusions drawn from longitudinal profiling, or other analytical information which does not otherwise satisfy all the requirements to establish “Presence” of a Prohibited Substance under Article 2.1. For example, Use may be established based upon reliable analytical data from the analysis of an A Sample (without confirmation from an analysis of a B Sample) or from the analysis of a B Sample alone where the Anti-Doping Organization provides a satisfactory explanation for the lack of confirmation in the other Sample.]

2.2.2 The success or failure of the Use or Attempted Use of a Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method is not material. It is sufficient that the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method was Used or Attempted to be Used for an antidoping rule violation to be committed.

Imagine what could happen without these rules, if, hypothetically, an athlete of the caliber of Usain Bolt, with a $40 million annual income, were to bribe medical personnel or support staff to take the blame for an adverse drug finding.

10.5 Elimination or Reduction of Period of Ineligibility Based on Exceptional Circumstances

10.5.1 No Fault or Negligence
[Comment to Articles 10.5.1 and 10.5.2:
The Code provides for the possible reduction or elimination of the period of Ineligibility in the unique circumstance where the Athlete can establish that he or she had No Fault or Negligence, or No Significant Fault or Negligence, in connection with the violation.

This approach is consistent with basic principles of human rights and provides a balance between those Anti-Doping Organizations that argue for a much narrower exception, or none at all, and those that would reduce a two-year suspension based on a range of other factors even when the Athlete was admittedly at fault.

These Articles apply only to the imposition of sanctions; they are not applicable to the determination of whether an anti-doping rule violation has occurred. Article 10.5.2 may be applied to any anti-doping rule violation even though it will be especially difficult to meet the criteria for a reduction for those anti doping rule violations where knowledge is an element of the violation.
Articles 10.5.1 and 10.5.2 are meant to have an impact only in cases where the circumstances are truly exceptional and not in the vast majority of cases.

To illustrate the operation of Article 10.5.1, an example where No Fault or Negligence would result in the total elimination of a sanction is where an Athlete could prove that, despite all due care, he or she was sabotaged by a competitor. Conversely, a sanction could not be completely eliminated on the basis of No Fault or Negligence in the following circumstances:
(a) a positive test resulting from a mislabeled or contaminated vitamin or nutritional supplement (Athletes are responsible for what they ingest (Article 2.1.1) and have been warned against the possibility of supplement contamination);

(b) the administration of a Prohibited Substance by the Athlete’s personal physician or trainer without disclosure to the Athlete (Athletes are responsible for their choice of medical personnel and for advising medical personnel that they cannot be given any Prohibited Substance);

and (c) sabotage of the Athlete’s food or drink by a spouse, coach or other Person within the Athlete’s circle of associates (Athletes are responsible for what they ingest and for the conduct of those Persons to whom they entrust access to their food and drink).

3Jamaica's athletes reputation has hit rock bottom Empty Best Pilates Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:44 pm



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