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Testing, testing, one, two, three

James Moss-Solomon
Sunday, August 19, 2012

No, I'm not talking about the sound on the stage as we get ready for a performance. I am talking about the furore and misunderstanding about the testing of athletes in and out of competition, and at random times and places.

There are statements made by former athletes like the very forgettable Mr Carl Lewis, and Dick Pound, the former czar of anti-doping (though not officially making a sanctioned statement). The first is innuendo, and the second is serious.

The story is unfolding slowly but very interestingly and the stones thrown have produced the proverbial squealing. In one TV interview on CVM Live at 7, the contest between two doctors (Charles and Davidson) came pretty close to being a PNP vs JLP mud-slinging match, and I was embarrassed to even listen to "it's not my fault, it's yours" coming from these persons. The other doctor, Paul Wright, appeared stunned or bemused.

Then later came an interesting interview on Nationwide of the overseas party, Mr Pound, who had made the "contentious" statement. He was unapologetic and furthermore stated that concerns were voiced to the previous minister of sports last year regarding the perceived flaws in our out-of-competition testing and the difficulty in finding athletes, a claim that our authority has denied. The "him seh, them seh" needs to be put to bed and that can only be done by exposing the truth.

But we need an analysis of this in order to avoid a recurrence of this episode and others in the future. First, we have signed an agreement that we may have difficulty complying with the agreed rules, and to avoid breaching those rules we must fully comply.

Second, our sportsmen and women cannot compete at meets or championship events without their understanding of, and compliance with, those rules.

Third, the rules do not seem to be selective or discriminatory between countries or persons. Fourth, the athletes must be aware of the rules, and if they wish to earn the big returns there is a responsibility to know that their actions must be in keeping with the rules. Fifth, all athletes know what substances are prohibited and should take a personal responsibility to keep up to date.

I can see, however, that there are environmental, financial, and cultural difficulties to total compliance. In a previous article I spoke to the need for civic respect, of having a proper address in every part of the country. Our local descriptions will not suffice a visiting inspector when we say "Just two chains then turn right on the left", especially at midnight.

Or, "When you reach buss shat corner, crass over the gully bank and you in lower Beirut, but careful 'cause dem deh man a some wicked bredda, seen."

Or simply imagine a good bar at 2:00 am in Sherwood Content and a lone white man asking with an accent, "Have you guys seen Usain? I'm here to test him."

"Yow, my yute," comes the reply, "no man cyan test Usain, so hold dat."

Then can you imagine a Jamaican athlete calling in to say to someone, no matter how confidential that person may appear to be, "I'm gone down to Pauline to look something but if she nah let off I'm going to Jennifer." Girls like sand, to match every man!

But putting jokes aside, I am interested in finding out how the programme is executed in large countries like Kenya, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, which all seem to have dispersed rural populations. What about countries in the throes of revolution, mass protest, and civil disobedience like those in the Middle East Arab Spring, Somalia, and so many others? Would someone please educate me?

This compliance issue in Jamaica is about to become a reality show of "Pin the donkey on the tail" or find your favourite athlete. This is going to be better than Lime Tree Lane and Dulcimina combined. I can foresee a fortune for Oliver, and Ity and Fancy Cat.

Financially, the blood analysis costs C$500, approximately J$45,000. Most critics would be horrified to see a child dying at one of our hospitals for want of an x-ray or nebuliser while spending the previously mentioned money on several hundred athletes in and out of competition. Any Jamaican Government will find it hard to justify that expenditure in the middle of an economic depression.

Therefore, the total burden cannot be left to governments with bare coffers. Neither should we expect that this will be borne by the private sector. Even if the funds were available it would seem to be in contravention of the governance conflict of being "uninfluenced" so that would cause problems even for the JAAA. So how does a small country in dire financial conditions comply?

I can only see two options: We could receive a very large grant from a donor agency to establish a perpetual Trust Fund that could provide a cash stream of about US$2-3 million per annum.

Or we could agree to facilitate the concerned world bodies and take them around to find athletes and charge them a "finder's fee" of say US$200 per test for transportation and local expertise, then they (the world bodies) could pay the Canadian lab the C$500 per test, and everyone would be happy.

Many of our medical practitioners would be glad to accommodate such arrangements in the national interest. As we say in our language, "Pick yu choice, the whole a dem nice."

Finally, the general public, close friends, supporters, and wagonists need to understand the serious implications of our own behaviour around our prized athletes. We cannot see them passing, invite them to play a game of dominoes, or have a drink in a club and then light up a spliff, as the result of second-hand smoke would be the same as if they had smoked it themselves.

Similarly, Granny's bush tea may be just as injurious to their test status, as quite often the "secret ingredient" may be harmful, or in the case of some "roots" contain substances classified as stimulants.

In closing, we need to understand and respect rules, the athletes need to do the same, and finally, we must find a suitable mechanism to avoid accusations of undue influence and connected parties. Perhaps the contractor general, or the FSC and BOJ, could offer some guidance here.

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