Holding Brand Jamaica and JADCO's hands

Dr Rachel Irving

Sunday, August 18, 2013

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SINCE 2010, the University of the West Indies, Mona, has been hosting a series of anti-doping workshops that seek to educate the public, athletes and their support staff about anti-doping matters.

The university has invited international stakeholders such as Dr Susan Backhouse, principal author of a WADA 200-page manuscript on predicators and precipitating factors in doping, Dr Jeffrey Benz, former general counsel of the USA Olympic Committee; and the founding president of WADA, the controversial Richard Pound.

The workshops have not got the traction the university had expected, but the university stands resolute in the support of Jamaica's anti-doping programme and is calling on Jamaica to join hands in helping JADCO in its mandate to foster a doping-free environment in Jamaica that promotes the ethics and spirit of sport and deters the use of banned doping substances in sport through education, testing, advocacy and programmed coordination.

Too many of our young athletes are being caught in the world of doping espionage. The weight of a nation is on Usain Bolt's shoulders because he has remained above the fray. He and all the Jamaican athletes at this time need our undivided support. We recently heard that all 41 athletes present in the training camp in Moscow were tested simultaneously (under the same condition and temperature). As a seasoned researcher, this to me implies a nation tested for comparative analysis with standard data probably already well established by IAAF and/or WADA for the biological passport.

Legally, nothing is wrong with scooping down on our athletes because of the plethora of adverse analytical findings Jamaica had between May and July of this year. If WADA at anytime suspects any doping violation, the body is within its right to target test. This does not mean that JADCO is not doing a reasonable good job. Notice, I did not say perfect, there is room for improvement, but let us examine JADCO's performance in context

Sample submissions

The statistics presented on testing for 2012 can be viewed on the WADA website. The Caribbean Regional Anti-doping Organization (RADO) which consists of 14 countries including Trinidad and Tobago, Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Dominica, St Vincent, and St Kitts and Nevis has submitted 49 samples to WADA- accredited lab/s in 2012. The sample submissions from anti-doping agencies or commissions in some countries in 2012 are as follow: Nigeria, 35; Belarus, 245; Bermuda, 58; Barbados,13; Guatemala, 39; Costa Rica, 4; Brazil, 128, and Jamaica, 106. JADCO should not be compared with UK or United States Anti-doping agencies which in 2012 submitted 5,971 and 4,051 samples, respectively.

These countries have far more resources and athletes per capita. By sports in the year 2012, football (28,008) was the most tested closely followed by athletics (27,836) and cycling (20,624). JADCO is indeed trending as it should, spending most of the testing dollars on track and field in 2012. Jamaica has traditionally done well in track and field, so athletes from this sport should be the ones most frequently sampled.

As Jamaicans, we need to stop talking and move brusquely forward in protecting our track and field legacy. The World Anti-doping Code is under review, this is the third review since enactment in 1999. There will be a super meeting in November of 2013 in South Africa where the whole matter of supplements will be examined by the IOC, the IAAF, WADA and national and regional anti-doping commissions. It has been proposed that if an athlete can prove that a supplement was contaminated with an unlabelled, banned ingredient, then the athlete may be warned or given a reduced sentence of a year or less if the banned ingredient is found in his/her system. If the athlete cannot prove that the supplement was contaminated, then the new sanction for first time offender beginning 2015 will be four years. This in effect will shorten the careers of many athletes who are caught using supplements.

Supplements

Supplements out of competition unless specified (see the WADA code) are not illegal and are sometimes necessary to help athletes heal and recover effectively. It is when the out of competition-in competition period gets blurred that the athlete gets into trouble. The FDA has just sent out an emergency warning on July 26, 2013 about Purity First B-50, marketed as a vitamin B dietary supplement. Preliminary FDA laboratory analysis indicated that the product contains two potentially harmful anabolic steroids-methasterone, a controlled substance, and dimethazine. These ingredients are not listed on the label and should not be in a dietary supplement.

"Products marketed as a vitamin but which contain undisclosed steroids pose a real danger to consumers and are illegal," said Howard Sklamberg, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. In this regard, an appeal is being made to the Diaspora, and the private sector to help the university establish the Caribbean Toxicology Lab, CARITOX by the fall of 2014. This toxicology lab will be able to test all supplements and prescribed drugs that are mis-labelled. The CARITOX lab is a pre-emptive strike before the new WADA rules come into effect at the end of 2014.

$60 million needed for lab

The university has already spent $120 million and needs $60 million to get the lab fully functional. The university wants to make it clear that it is not proposing the testing of any biological samples for banned substances. JADCO must be allowed to continue its mandate of collecting and sending biological samples to WADA-accredited labs for testing. The university will be able to test contaminated supplements which the athletes might ingest and, if found contaminated, the athletes and their respective sporting bodies can then hold the manufacturers responsible based on sound scientific evidence that will be allowed by WADA.

Contrary to what many might think WADA is not evil and have something in place in the revised code to be implemented in 2015 in regard to contaminated supplements and protection of the athletes. The onus is now on the athlete to prove contamination by the manufacturer, thus relaxing the strict liability clause to
an extent.

The university is ready to hold the athletes and JADCO's hands, but needs to have the toxicology lab up to test these contaminated products that might inadvertently get in the system of the Jamaican athlete. Diaspora can you raise $60 million for this lab?

Editor's note: Rachael Irving, PhD is a Senior Research Fellow & WADA Researcher at the

Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Mona.


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