In the lead up to the elections to choose a new administration for the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA), there were rumblings that trouble was brewing in the MVP camp over Michael Frater, the 2005 World Championship 100-metre silver medalist. Word on the ground was that if he was successful in his bid to become a vice president of the JAAA, Frater could find himself without a training base, especially if Dr. Warren Blake retained the presidency of the JAAA.
For whatever reason Frater did not respond to the rumours and he didn’t speak to his coach about it either. I assume he didn’t because it didn’t make sense that his coach would be harbouring such thoughts or perhaps because no one from MVP’s management had come to him about the matter. And why would he? Afterall, the two-time Olympic sprint relay gold medalist was nominated for the post by Paul Francis, the assistant coach at MVP and Stephen’s brother.
Late on the night of November 29, after three rounds of voting, Frater secured 204 of the 370 available votes to secure his position as third vice president of the JAAA, the most votes received by any single candidate in the elections. Hours later Stephen Francis was quoted in the Jamaica Observer saying the very same things that were heard on the rumour mill just days before. “That is the way I am leaning unless something else can be worked out. Unless there is a way to work out the issues that is the way it might work out,” Francis said when asked about Frater’s future at the club now that he was a vice president of the JAAA. “If he can explain how my issues will be addressed satisfactorily and how he can convince me that he will not allow those on the JAAA executive to sabotage us (he can stay).”
I spoke to Frater after I read those quotes and again, he said nothing. Then just this week he offered what could very well be his first public statement on the matter. “I was very disappointed when I saw the comments made by the coach, but I made a decision and I’m sticking with my decision. This is what I chose to do… and for me it’s just (that) I’ve finally found a way where I can actually help the athletes… this is the path I’ve chosen and I’m going to stick with the decision I’ve made and if coach Francis has a problem with that, then so be it,” said Frater.
Frater joined MVP in May 2005. Having just graduated by Texas Christian University where he enjoyed a solid collegiate career, Frater said back then that he wanted to train here in Jamaica because he believes in Stephen Francis. “He is the first track coach that I have had. I have been coming a long way with him and he has kept on believing in me. That’s a major influence when you have somebody that believes in your ability,” he said back then, the same year he surprised the world by finishing second in the Men 100-metre sprint behind Justin Gatlin at the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
But even though Frater has been loyal to Francis, he has always been his own man. A man who is confident enough to do what he feels he needs to do. In 2008 when Francis refused to send his elite athletes to a training camp set up by the JAAA, creating major embarrassment for the Jamaican delegation in China, Frater defied his coach and attended the camp. At the time he believed the sprint relay team needed to get the necessary practice if they were to win gold in Beijing and the way to do that was to have all the participants in one camp. The Jamaican squad was comprised of Usain Bolt, who was by then the new world record holder, Powell, and Nesta Carter, but the sprinter, who grew up in Ulster Spring, Trelawny, believed that despite the talent Jamaica needed to get their baton changes down if it was to hold off the challenge of a strong team from the United States.
Again in 2009 at the World Championships in Berlin, Frater attended the JAAA camp, and again in London this year, when his teammates under the instruction of their head coach were in a separate camp in warmer climes in Italy.
Is it Frater’s penchant for doing his own thing why Francis feels that Frater can be swayed by the JAAA to ‘sabotage’ the very club that has brought him so much success? Is this why Francis no longer believes in him?
Frater is no fool. I also do not suspect that he is an ingrate. What I do feel is that he is a man who believes in what he wants to accomplish and aggressively pursues his goals. Frater said he joined Dr. Blake’s slate because he was the only candidate who had a solid plan to help the athletes – the emerging ones, the active ones and those who were retired. He is extremely passionate about wanting to help and believes that he has the know how to do so. That is why he won the largest number of votes of any single candidate on election night. His teammates and athletes from other clubs voted overwhelmingly for him. Had they believed that he had sinister motives towards his own club I doubt they would have voted so strongly in his favour, especially those athletes with whom he rubs shoulders every day.
With this in mind what does Francis know or thinks he knows about the JAAA’s plans to sabotage him. This is a man, who following his involvement in Shelly Ann Fraser’s unfortunate six-month suspension for testing positive for Oxycodone in 2010, faced a ban of between four years and life for his role in her positive test and I suspect that the JAAA had something to do with him still being able to coach. Had it not been for their ‘intervention’ perhaps he would not be coaching today. If the JAAA wanted to sabotage him wouldn’t that have been the perfect opportunity to do so? They didn’t need Frater for that.
There are questions left to be answered:
Why does Francis believe that the JAAA is out to sabotage him?
Why would Michael Frater betray him when he has stood by him for the past seven years?
Why wouldn’t Frater not help mend fences between MVP and the JAAA now that he is a vice president?
Only Francis can answer those questions.
The bottom line is that Frater is a leader, and it is hard for leaders to follow philosophies that they don’t buy into. I don’t think Frater buys into Francis’ theory that the JAAA is out to get him. Think about it, if the JAAA sabotages Francis invariably they sabotage themselves because any leverage the JAAA now possesses is thanks in large part to the success of Francis’ athletes at major championships over the past decade.
Frater also has vision and he knows that he has perhaps four or so good years left at the elite level in track and field. He also has ambitions of entering representational politics. Being a JAAA executive member is a good platform from which to launch. There is life after track and Frater knows it and is preparing for it. However, undeservedly he has come under pressure for making a forward step, a step that he believes will be beneficial for himself and all athletes including his teammates at MVP.
If this situation escalates any further as Frater tries to represent his fellow athletes – who by the way, turned out in record numbers to vote for him – helping them get what he believes they deserve, I would hope that those very athletes step to the defense of their Olympic team captain, a man who leads on and off the track.