‘A great sporting nation’
WORLD Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Banka says he is comfortable with Jamaica’s anti-doping system and describes it as a standard-bearer for the region.
Banka is on the island to attend a WADA forum with 14 sports ministers from across the region, and he will also meet with the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) to get a better understanding of its operations. The forum takes place in Kingston and runs from today to tomorrow.
Banka says Jamaica was chosen to host the forum because it is what he describes as a “great sporting nation”.
“It plays an important role in the region and we are comfortable with the anti-doping systems in Jamaica,” Banka told the Jamaica Observer yesterday. “Nobody’s perfect, WADA is not perfect as well, but we see JADCO as a leader in the region.”
While Banka admits that JADCO has areas to improve on, he says that these issues are shared by the greater Caribbean and he wants a collective effort from these nations to develop their systems.
“I think we have to look at the region, the Caribbean region, from a broader perspective,” he said. “I can say that I’m quite comfortable with the anti-doping system in Jamaica, but this is not the case in the whole Caribbean region. We need more testing activities in the countries from the Caribbean, as well as more testing and more education. Actually, this is the goal for the whole region, not only Jamaica.”
In recent years, a number of high-profile Jamaican athletes have been brought before the Independent Anti-Doping Panel for various breaches of the WADA code. In those hearings, it has been discovered that both JADCO officials and athletes have fallen short of best practices regarding protocols for sample collection. These issues on JADCO’s end also led to an internal inquiry which resulted in Carey Brown being replaced by June Spence Jarrett as its Executive Director in 2018.
The most recent controversy regarding JADCO’s practice, however, happened during the Carifta Games in Kingston last year. Jamaica’s Women’s U-20 4x100m relay team clocked 42.58 seconds. This was set to become a Women’s U-20 world record but was not ratified by World Athletics, the sport’s global governing body, because it was found that only three of the four members of that team were subject to drug tests after the race.
Banka says this is why education on best practices is crucial and that WADA is ready to play a greater role in awareness of protocols over the next few years.
“We want to be perceived not only as a prosecutor or policeman in the anti-doping community, but an organisation, an agency that takes care of the athletes and wants to educate the athletes,” he said. “That’s why education is a key pillar for us. Our mission next year is to find the balance between catch and punish, and support and prevent.”
WADA says it expects a positive outcome to the summit, which will be a private two-day discussion between all relevant stakeholders. However, WADA says it will host an official press conference to share information on its outcome tomorrow.
— Rachid Parchment