FRACTIOUS bickering about the degree of effort made by the Government and JADCO to effectively control doping in Jamaica is getting us nowhere.
As a matter of fact, the bickering is presenting Jamaica as a contentious country that quarrels about everything, including our role as signatory to the World Anti-doping Code. Jamaica athletes have been tested more than most other countries' athletes. The Jamaican athletes in the IAAF registered testing pool were tested on average 6.6 times compared to 5.2 for American athletes. Jamaican athletes have been tested by organisations such as IAAF and WADA filling some of the testing gaps which we cannot plug because of budgetary deficit.
If other organisations are testing our athletes at certain times, what needs to be done is not a reinvention of the wheel, but scheduling. Because the country's budget is limited, JADCO should maximise the testing dollars and schedule testing during the periods when athletes are not tested by other testing agencies. In that way the tests would be more evenly spread in and out of competitions.
Dr Arne Ljungvist, chair of WADA's Health, Medical and Research Committee, however, made it clear that Jamaica is one of many countries that have not performed the required number of tests on its athletes and should not be singled out. Yet, because we are fractious as a people, every time the world wants to make some money by using our athletes' names, they draw us out and we self-destruct.
Just look at how the supplement companies are benefitting from our sanctioned athletes. Jamaican elite sprinters make worldwide news. Oxilofrine was one of the least-used stimulants but when evidence emerged that two of the fastest people from the sprint factory, Jamaica, were sanctioned for allegedly using Oxilofrine, sales of supplements with Oxilofrine went up exponentially. Jamaican sanctioned athletes seem to be driving traffic to these supplement companies. Could our sprinters be targets for these nefarious companies?
Let's look at another scenario where we are destroying our most precious brand and allowing others to benefit from our disunity. Five of our most elite athletes tested positive for a range of substances? This is an anomaly and increased scrutiny will be drawn to any top-rated sporting country when there is a deviation from the norm. The role of WADA is to preserve the integrity of fair play in sports. Why do we feel, then, that WADA would not visit Jamaica to find out what went wrong? This type of visit is not unique to Jamaica. Russia was visited by WADA earlier.
The WADA-accredited lab in Russia has one of the highest percentages of positive tests per total. It also had some questionable results. To ensure that the International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) is being upheld, the WADA team paid a visit for quality control purposes. They ensured that the production of valid test results and evidentiary data were harmonised with the other laboratories worldwide. Russia still held a marvellous World Championships and continued with their testing.
Not many persons in the sporting world knew about the challenging testing problems Russia had prior to hosting the World Championships. WADA objective is to co-operate with intergovernmental organisations, governments, public authorities and other public and private bodies in fighting against doping in sport.
Our prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, invited WADA to visit Jamaica because there are some discrepancies about Jamaica's testing programme. This is expected. As a signatory to the code, and based on the Copenhagen Declaration, there is an area on monitoring of compliance which states "ongoing compliance with the commitments reflected in the convention or other obligation will be monitored as determined in consultation between WADA and the applicable government(s)". So let's stop our bickering and making an espionage movie about WADA's visit. Collectively, we should fix our testing programme. Stop giving the Associated Press and other international media material for extraordinary news that is in fact ordinary. The negativity associated with our anti-doping programme is being used as tabloid to rake in millions of dollars.
As a country, we must move forward; we owe Shelly- Ann Fraser- Pryce, Usain Bolt and lion-hearted Javon Francis much more. We must make them proud of their country as they have made us proud.
Editor's note: Dr Rachel Irving is the Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona.