EDITORIAL: Let’s act now on dope cheats
The news of the latest scandals in the world of track and field has left even the most simple-minded with a numbness. That a number of leading track and field athletes had tested positive for banned substances was not what was expected.
While this latest doping scandal does not involve any Barbadian athletes, there can be little relief for us since it involves many big names we have come to admire in an area of endeavour with which we readily identify. It also involves a number of Jamaicans, and for many across the world there is no real difference between Jamaicans and the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean.
As to be expected, there has been indignation at the news that some of Jamaica’s best have tested positive for these banned substances. We felt that the sport of track and field had by now gone through a thorough purge, making it a pure and clean competition, so we can expect denials that most of the athletes did not take any prohibitive substance or knowingly did so.
The scandals ranging from Marion Jones to Lance Armstrong have shown that testing has to be done and the cheats will not beat the system, no matter how sophisticated their efforts.
What must be recognized is that in any valid anti-doping system, athletes are judged by a standard called strict liability: no matter how an illicit substance gets into their bodies, athletes are responsible for it.
There can be extenuating circumstances as in the well-documented case of LaShawn Merritt of the United States, one of the best over 400 metres and who took a steroid derivative contained in a male-enhancement product.
While arbitrators acknowledged that he had been trying to enhance his sexual prowess, not his athletic performance, he was still given a suspension from competition – even if a reduced sentence. The point is he had to take responsibility for the drug found in his system.
It is therefore interesting to hear the Canadian trainer for some of the Jamaicans call on them to take “responsibility for their doping instead of looking around for a scapegoat”.
While we welcome the good news from National Anti-Doping Commission chairman Dr Adrian Lorde that no Barbadians have tested positive at the national championships there is still little to celebrate.
Track and field officials in Jamaica, indeed all Jamaica, must recognize that they, and by extension the Caribbean, have now been driven into a crisis given the number of athletes who have tested positive.
Brand Jamaica has been tainted.
Let us not play ostrich, but rather deal firmly with the situation. It may not be the message we want to spread, but we must. It calls for weeding out any and all those who run afoul of the rules.