NOW that passions have died down, and tempers have somewhat cooled, it may be a good time to attempt to look at the Anne Shirley/JADCo incident with a little less heat and hopefully more light.
In times past, men of power slew those who were bearers of bad news, and so it seems even in today's world, both physically and figuratively. Thank heavens that it is figuratively in the case of Miss Shirley.
I have become accustomed to fending off such venomous attacks, which come fast and furiously and in different forms. My transgression also had to do with our holy of holies -- sports. I had the audacity to denounce the aberration of bringing in youngsters to the school for sports purposes -- a practice that had become too common in our high schools. Would that there were an Anne Shirley to shake up this aspect of our education/socialisation system and get the powers that be to take notice.
It seems that in Jamaica the authorities act only when there is a roadblock and burning of tyres, a demonstration. I empathise with Miss Shirley. I understand her frustration. I am sure that she appreciates that change agents, like her, have to be prepared for the brickbats. It is par for the course.
Recently, Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, in referring to her performance at the World Championships, said most of the athletes expressed negative comments and some even went as far as to accuse her face to face of doping. "I didn't get any fancy hurrah. Some persons thought it was nice and it was good, but (the) majority of the athletes had their negative comments," she added. Bear in mind that the World Championships took place before Ms Shirley's expose was published. A recognised, strong anti-doping programme would help to mute such sentiments.
The many ad hominem arguments and vitriolic attacks against Anne Shirley only serve to cloud the issues. They are diversionary tactics used to distract the public. The point is that JADCo and Jamaica need to clearly address the issues that Anne has raised. Are they valid or not?
Some of the arguments raised against Ms. Shirley are:
1. The timing was wrong. Is there any right time for truth? When would be the right time for these disclosures? The eyes of the world are always on us, the wrong time seems to be whenever unpleasant things are brought to light.
2. She shouldn't have gone to the "foreign" press. In this day and age of high-speed communications and interconnections, what is local? Globalisation does not refer only to economic activity. I have used local media exclusively in making people aware of the debilitating practice of our high schools recruiting youngsters for sports purposes, but many have become cognisant of my activities, through the foreign media. There are no longer any boundaries especially for a matter as topical and important as drug testing of Jamaican athletes. What Ms. Shirley said would have been big news throughout the world wherever it was first published.
3. She was motivated to do what she did because she was removed from her post at JADCo. So what? Many hideous things have come to light because of disgruntled or frustrated or former employees. Let us deal with the message, not the messenger.
One sports writer/commentator, Oral Tracy (SportGlobe 28/8/13), even wrote that if Miss Shirley believes that what she did was in the best interest of Jamaica, "then it is obvious that she is smitten by the silly and naive notion that Jamaican athletes don't take drugs and the ones that do test positive do so because of a lack of education". Therefore, by demanding improvements at JADCo, Miss Shirley was "selling out" Jamaican athletes. Of course his conclusion is illogical, a non sequitur. There are several other such absurd comments making the rounds. The implications of what Mr Tracy said is as damning if not more so than anything any other local person or foreigner, anywhere in the world, has said against Jamaican athletics and athletes. Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do.
Suffice it to say, Anne Shirley has focused world attention even more acutely on Jamaica in the area of drug testing in sports. Hopefully, this will prod the powers that be to put their money where their mouth is and move urgently to make the quality of our drug-testing programme world class. A strong anti-doping regime, recognised as such worldwide, can only redound to the benefit of Jamaica and her athletes. Considering Jamaica's position of primacy in athletics, the added attention may make fund-raising for the programme a little easier. Bravo, Anne Shirley! You are a blessing in disguise.
Dr Lascelve "Muggy" Graham former Jamaica football captain.