An appeal to JADCO
The point is...
Why does the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) keep getting it so wrong? I thought the sagas over the past year were behind us. With a new board in place, somehow I started to believe that our local anti-doping agency was on the path of renewal and rebirth.
Despite the naysayers, I believe JADCO is relevant, needs its own autonomy and therefore should not be part of the Caribbean Regional Anti-doping Organisation.
However, without warning came the massive punch in the stomach: Travis Smikle has been given a two-year ban, even after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), in a document, deemed that his samples were collected in violation of the standard sample collection process.
Travis called on the verge of tears, giving me the bad news early Tuesday morning. I could not believe. I told Travis he must be wrong.
Before I answered his call I had thought that he just wanted to call to tell me about his outstanding grades for this semester, given that we have not met along the university corridors in a while.
On Wednesday, I took a break from the overdue medical/scientific manuscript I was writing to call one of the lawyers representing Travis. He confirmed that Travis was indeed given the maximum two years. Can someone tell me why this has happened?
The CAS panel which exonerated Veronica Campbell Brown after her sample was deemed to be contaminated in the same manner as young Travis Smikle noted that two out of the three positive hydrochlorothiazide (HCT) or diuretic results occurred following violation of the partial sample collection process.
Page 6 of the CAS 2014/A/3487 Veronica Campbell Brown v The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) & The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) document states: "One of those athletes (Mr Smikle) tested positive after providing a partial sample that was collected in violation of the WADA IST and the 2011 Regulations on 22 June 2013."
The CAS panel also noted the striking disparity between the percentage of positive HCT test results worldwide in 2012 (0.05 per cent) and the proportion of positive HCT or diuretic results amongst athletes competing at the National Stadium during the two-month period in 2013 (three per cent) that Travis competed.
That wide disparity in diuretics test results may be consistent with environmental contamination, the panel noted. The CAS panel reasoned that environmental contamination is highly possible if an athlete provides a partial urine sample, which Travis did, and the doping control officer fails to comply with the partial collection procedure.
Because of the small opening in the collection container it can be contaminated. Furthermore, because the collection process was defective and JADCO admitted to this, it may increase the likelihood of contamination. The panel concluded that the departure from procedure could have caused the contamination by the diuretic and therefore the athlete has shifted the burden of proof of an anti-doping violation under IAAF Rule 33.3(b).
If these reasons hold for Veronica Campbell Brown at CAS, why do they not hold for Travis Smikle at JADCO? If the JADCO disciplinary panel cannot be comfortably sure that the athlete doped, why punish the athlete with evidence that is insufficient to establish a doping violation to the requisite standard of proof?
JADCO, I implore you to move from litigation to arbitration mode when dealing with the Jamaica athletes. There is too much discontent between our athletes and our anti-doping governing body. While we must be ethical, our athletes, especially those at the lower end, are going through too much pain.
Too many verdicts by JADCO have been overturned by CAS. We recently saw that Dominique Blake's six-year sanction was reduced to four years, Veronica Campbell Brown was exonerated, and the CAS is to review the sanctions imposed on Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson.
We heard of the technicality in the Sherone/Asafa reprieve, where they could not run at a meet because of some clause in JADCO's rules, even though CAS had granted permission.
JADCO, please take a page out of the United States Anti-doping Agency's book. Tyson Gay, in most people eyes, was very much guilty of using steroids; however, the United States Anti-Doping Agency did all it could to have his sanction reduced to one year.
The agency indicated that it has also started a process of rehabilitation. If Tyson Gay was so guilty and got one year, how can JADCO, in good conscience, give Travis Smikle two years? Be reminded that the highest court for sport arbitration (CAS) declared and documented that his samples were not collected according to the international standard that JADCO had signed on to and promised to uphold.
I call on the JADCO Appeal Tribunal to do the right thing and revoke this two-year ban. The athletes' well-being and good anti-doping standards are national priorities.
-- Dr Rachael Irving is a senior research fellow at the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, Mona and a World Anti-Doping Agency researcher.