SPORT Minister Olivia Grange says she is hoping the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) conference will foster stronger relationships with stakeholders across the region.
WADA will be staging a two-day conference which starts today in Kingston, with 14 of the Caribbean's sports ministers to discuss methods of developing their anti-doping systems. WADA President Witold Banka will also meet with the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission, whose work he says he is comfortable with, to get a closer understanding of its operations.
Grange, like Banka, says that Jamaica is the standard-bearer for anti-doping procedures in the region and believes it has much to share with its Caribbean neighbours. But she sees an opportunity for Jamaica to strengthen its practices by learning more about the practices of other territories.
"I think that this will create a stronger relationship and bond in the region among sports ministers and countries that are involved," Grange told the Jamaica Observer. "We will be able to share best practices. Where Jamaica is strong, we can share our strength, and where other countries are strong, they can share with us. It is really an excellent opportunity for us to build our relationship from strength to strength as a region so that when we go out there to compete with the world the Caribbean can stand predominant."
Banka says that while he is comfortable with Jamaica's practices, it and the rest of the region can develop collectively, and this is one of the messages he intends to share with the ministers today.
"We want to urge the ministers in the Caribbean region to do more for anti-doping policies for the athletes," Banka told the Observer. "This is actually the goal of the meeting, to make a difference in the region, so I'm really grateful that Jamaica agreed to be the host of this summit. I think it will bring us a lot of positive outcomes for the athletes."
Grange says that a virtual conference was previously held involving Banka, and there she offered technical assistance to all the participating ministers of this forum.
"WADA was very happy we offered to do so and they indicated that they would support this initiative," she said. "That is why we are hosting the conference. Coming out of that we are hoping that we will come up with an action plan for the region in the overall anti-doping activities in sports."
Grange says the Government has a good working relationship with WADA, which has funded its programmes. But while she says funding is stretched, she says it is enough to ensure Jamaica has a good reputation for its anti-doping policies.
"It's never enough but we do fund our anti-doping programmes adequately so that we can ensure that we have a very efficient and effective programme," she said. "We do not want to be accused of having a weak anti-doping programme because we sell so much in sports, particularly in track and field that the eyes of the world are on us, and we have to ensure that we continue to promote clean sports and there are no questions asked about us."
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