Important lessons from Mr Andre Russell's ordeal

Saturday, May 13, 2017

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Like most Jamaicans, this newspaper was taken aback when the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) decided to appeal the 12-month suspension of star West Indies cricketer Mr Andre Russell.JADCO's appeal was on the basis that Mr Russell had got off lightly after being found guilty by an independent disciplinary commission in January of having failed to file his whereabouts on three occasions in a one-year period.

Two years' suspension would have been the maximum punishment for Mr Russell's breach.

We are pleased that JADCO, having done its review and having consulted with Jamaica's attorney general, has backtracked and overturned the troubling decision to appeal the ruling of the independent commission. We note the position of JADCO Chairman Mr Alexander Williams that a “misunderstanding” triggered the decision to appeal which he says was taken by Executive Director Mr Carey Brown without consultation with board directors.

We note that Mr Russell has also withdrawn his cross-appeal.

We wish we could say 'all's well that ends well'. But as Mr Williams has been at pains to point out, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) is likely to take interest in the decision of the local body to change its mind.

“We would have to explain to WADA the reasons for the appeal being withdrawn, and I believe we are comfortable in our explanation. WADA also has the right to take the matter elsewhere... and that is up to them … Our executive director is required by WADA guidelines to explain why complaints are not made where there are violations and even to explain why appeals are not pursued, where warranted,” Mr Williams told a press conference after JADCO formally withdrew its appeal.

Further, even should WADA accept the explanation of what we consider to be JADCO's very logical decision to relent, Mr Russell still has the bulk of his suspension to serve.

Among the most sought-after players in cricket's cash-rich Twenty20 version, Mr Russell is banned from playing competitive cricket until January 30, 2018.

A possible upside for the 29-year-old all-rounder is that the one-year break provides valuable opportunity for rest and recuperation. Those who follow cricket closely will know that Mr Russell has long struggled with a problematic knee.

Against a backdrop of the obvious confusion and embarrassment surrounding the JADCO board and its executive director, Mr Williams has pledged to tighten and revisit the rules and “to give further clarity as to how the board and the executive director should function”.

Crucially though, perhaps the most important aspects of the entire saga, going all the way back to Mr Russell being first cited for whereabouts breaches, are the lessons which should be learnt.

All sportsmen and women, their handlers, coaches, managers, agents, et al, should learn from what has befallen Mr Russell. He did not fail a drug test, nor was he accused of ingesting illegal substances. He fell afoul of WADA's rules because proper procedures in terms of his whereabouts were not followed.

The clear message is that athletes with the help of those around them must ensure that in addition to staying “clean” and free of banned and prohibited substances, T's must be crossed and 'I's dotted. Discipline and vigilance must be watchwords at all times.




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