Editorial

JAAA decision on Miss Briana Williams correct

Saturday, September 14, 2019

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This newspaper believes the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) did the right thing by selecting Jamaica's Under-20 World double sprint champion Miss Briana Williams for the IAAF World Championships in Doha later this month.

We are of this view despite the time constraints dictated by the proximity of her anti-doping hearing — to be conducted by the Independent Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel.

Attentive readers will be aware that the dates for Miss Williams' hearing have been set for September 23, 24 and 25, while the World Championships women's 100m is on September 28.

We agree with JAAA head Dr Warren Blake that in the time-honoured tradition of natural justice Miss Williams should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

In a real sense, that principle becomes even more important since Miss Williams is only 17 years old, still a junior athlete and legally a minor, protected and cared for by adults.

Under no circumstances should she be allowed to believe that her country is dumping her because of unproven allegations and pointed fingers.

It's an unfortunate, and perhaps an inescapable reality, that when it comes to such allegations in sport, athletes appear to be presumed guilty until they are able to clear their names.

At least, that's how it appears for many of us looking on from the outside.

In the case of the super talented Miss Williams, she tested positive for the banned diuretic hydrochlorothiazide after running a personal best of 10.94 seconds and finishing third in the 100m at the Jamaica National Championships (national trials) in June.

Diuretics are classified by anti-doping authorities as masking agents for performance-enhancing drugs. Hence prohibition on their use by athletes.

However, reports say Miss Williams, who is based in Florida, declared taking a cold medicine, Pharma Cold and Flu, which had been administered to her by her mother, Ms Sharon Simpson.

Her camp has said that unknown to Miss Simpson the over-counter pills were contaminated with elements of the banned substance. Here is a scenario that has 'burnt' a number of prominent athletes, including Jamaicans, in the past.

We are told that if the hearing goes badly for Miss Williams she could be handed a four-year ban from athletics competition. She could also escape with a reprimand.

We can only imagine the pain and trauma for the young athlete and those closest to her at this time. Her handlers, relatives and friends need to do all they can to keep the young athlete focused and able to bounce back, no matter what.

All that said, the dangers of athletes ingesting prohibited and banned substances have been known for many years.

The authorities have consistently warned that athletes and their handlers must take responsibility for whatever substance enters athletes' bodies.

Yet again, this should be a lesson for competitors, their coaches, back room support staff, relatives and friends. The consequences are such that there should be no room for looseness, inefficiency, or carelessness.


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