O'Hara court action a first for Penn Relays, says Johnson

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, May 02, 2015

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DIRECTOR of Penn Relays Dave Johnson says the court action taken against his organisation by Michael O'Hara is probably the first in history, but made it clear that he harbours no ill feelings toward Calabar High School.


"This is the first court case I know of going back to 1989. Before then there is a possibility, but it would seem to be a slim possibility," said Johnson, who has been the director of the famed Penn Relays for the last 20 years.


There were talks that the organisers are not happy with being taken to court and Calabar might not be invited next year, but Johnson put that to rest.


"I don't see this as a school issue, [but] rather one of a student and his parents not being fully aware of all the eligibility rules," he told the Jamaica Observer.


"Losing one's amateur standing is not an unheard of occurrence in the US, as there are instances when a distance runner might accept a cash prize at a summer road race without realising it's against the rules.


"High school associations need to realise the innocence with which many of these cases occur and do not make it difficult to regain one's amateur standing," he pointed out.


O'Hara, who was revealed as a Digicel Ambassador during the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championship, was initially barred from competing at the Penn Relays by the organisers after it was deemed he was no longer an amateur.


But they were taken to court by O'Hara's legal team and got a reprieve after he was told to opt out of the Digicel contact, which he did.


The 2013 World Youth 200m champion competed and led Calabar to two titles. He ran the second leg in the record run in the 4x100, and anchored the 4x400 to an easy victory. He was chosen as the meet's MVP.


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