After more than a month of insanity with regards to Jamaica’s drug testing programme, the financial fall out has begun. Usain Bolt is reported to have lost mega-bucks from a new sponsorship deal that fell through because it was feared that he would not competing at the next Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
These fears came about when outgoing president of the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA Jeff Fahey began spouting his drivel about having countries like Jamaica and Kenya banned from the major international meets because their respective drug testing agencies were not up to scratch.
It was only recently that World and Olympic 100-metre champion Shelly Ann Frater Pryce threatened to strike if local authorities did not step to the defense of Jamaica’s athletes whose legitimacy is being challenged in light of accusations being made by WADA. This is despite the fact that the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) revealing that it had been testing Jamaica’s athletes.
Initial reports said that Jamaica’s elite athletes were tested more than any other set of athletes in the world leading up the London 2012 Games even though the local agency the Jamaica Anti-doping Commission (JADCO) had failed to test sufficiently between February and June that year. It was this fact that started off the firestorm of controversy, which was triggered by an expose written by former executive director Ann Shirley and fueled by a rash of positive drug tests by Jamaican athletes this past summer.
In all of this the local body, the Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA) has remained silent, too silent on the issue and has failed miserably to come to the defense of the athletes. It needed to have made it clear that WADA cannot ban anyone from the Olympics or World Championships, but that the bad press has not helped the cause of the Jamaican athletes, several of whom have been tested in and out of competition more than any other track and field athlete on the planet. The IAAF has confirmed that Usain Bolt was tested 12 times in 2012, Yohan Blake 14 times. Asafa Powell and Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce have also been tested many times during the period.
IAAF President Lamine Diack, its deputy general secretary Nick Davies and Lord Sebastien Coe, the man many believe is in line to replace Diack, have all taken WADA to task for the perceived witch hunt against Jamaica’s (and Kenya’s) doping commission and by extension, it’s athletes. Diack was scathing in his remarks against WADA, accusing them of attacking the sport of track and field, while Davies described the WADA onslaught as excessive. Coe revealed that Jamaica’s athletes have been tested an estimated 700 times by the IAAF while questioning whether WADA had even come close to conducting as many tests as they have.
Still the JAAA remains silent.
Why? No one knows. One wonders whether JAAA president Dr. Warren Blake is even engaged with what has been going on? Does he realize that without the elite athletes the JAAA is nothing but an organisation presiding over a struggling sport? I am sure that the IAAF officials are themselves wondering why the JAAA has remained so silent, so ineffective against the noise being created by the WADA.
Does the JAAA realize it is because of the athletes why the JAAA has contract options on the table, and that without them all those options would disappear? Even though Jamaica has been locked into an agreement with Puma until 2020, I believe, there have been sponsorship agreements on the table from several other shoe companies, a few of them reportedly sweeter than the current deal. Those deals stand to disappear if this onslaught against the athletes continues and they could stay away for a long time if Jamaica doesn’t aggressively counter the WADA onslaught.
Jamaica is currently in the final cycle of the Bolt era. It is an era when Jamaica has produced more world beaters than any other in its track and field history. 1948 and 1952 was the initial golden era when Jamaica won three gold medals at the Olympic Games. In 1952, Jamaica finished 13th in the medal table. These days top 10 has become the norm.
Between the Beijing Olympics and the London Games, Jamaica has won 10 gold medals, that’s more than it has won at all Olympic Games prior to this era combined. At the World Championships Jamaica has been even better. Including Berlin 2009, Jamaica has won a whopping 17 gold medals. At the last world championships in Moscow the nation’s six gold medals, saw it finish third on the medal table, just one gold medal shy of topping the table. Never before has the country won so many gold medals at major championships in such a short period of time. There are also more special athletes in the pipeline. How special, only time will tell but it was only in July that this small, impoverished island nation topped the tables at the World Youth Championships with six gold medals, two more than Kenya and four more than the powerful United States.
If we are to protect this rich legacy and see future performances not endure the undeserved scrutiny this current era has had to endure, it would suit the JAAA to step up its game to meet the performances of the athletes. After all, wasn’t that one of the key messages behind the 2011 JAAA election campaign; bringing the administration in line with the incredible performances from the nation’s athletes?
Based on what we have seen so far, two years in, the administration is still playing catch up.