Let's remember the harsh lessons of 2013

Let's remember the harsh lessons of 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

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IN terms of performances, 2013 will go down as another successful year for Jamaican athletics.

The country placed third at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August with nine medals, including six Gold.

As they had done a year earlier at the London Olympics, Jamaican sprinters, led by Mr Usain Bolt and Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, wowed the world.

Sadly, Jamaica's dominance on the track was largely overshadowed by controversy surrounding positive drug tests for a number of athletes. They included the highly decorated Mrs Veronica Campbell-Brown, former world 100-metre record holder Mr Asafa Powell and the respected Ms Sherone Simpson.

All three and several others insisted that they did not "knowingly" use or ingest banned substances. They blamed the use of supplements for the adverse analytical findings.

That other athletes across the globe, including the great American sprinter Mr Tyson Gay, also tested positive in mid-year during the build-up to the Games in Moscow was of no consolation to Jamaicans who have long taken pride not just in success but in the integrity of their athletes.

Allegations and innuendo in global media grew to fever pitch with the bombshell declaration by former head of the Jamaica Anti-doping Commission (JADCO) Ms Renee-Anne Shirley that the agency had, among other failings, managed just one out-of-competition test in five months prior to the London Olympics.

A positive drug test for Jamaican footballer Mr Jermaine Hue — who was, as it turned out, a victim of a terrible error by the national team's doctor — only made the situation worse.

Thankfully, at year's end there seems to have been an acceptance by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) that while JADCO had suffered from serious inadequacies — obviously caused by resource constraints related to the country's impecunious situation — Jamaica was compliant with the world body's anti-doping rules.

We note the Government's commitment to work closely with WADA and to strengthen drug-testing capacity at JADCO as well as support anti-doping education for athletes at all levels.

All stakeholders, including the Government, JADCO, our sporting associations, our sportsmen and women and their support staff must ensure that the harsh lessons learnt in 2013 are not forgotten.

Anti-doping capacity and education must be watchwords in 2014 and beyond.

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