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Athletes must be careful!

Andi Thornhill

Athletes must be careful!

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Any way you look at it, Jamaican athletes have to be more careful about what they are ingesting into their bodies.
For even if some want to suggest that there’s a witch hunt for the Jamaicans because of their outstanding successes in the past two Olympics, it is also true that several of them have tested positive for prohibited substances in the past.
Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson are the most recent additions to the list.
This factor should be part of the analysis because given Jamaica’s current dominance in sprinting and being a developing country, there are bound to be conspiracy theories about envious forces trying to stop them in their tracks but we have to put aside sentiment and look at the matter objectively.
Some of those who have been linked with taking prohibited substances include Marvin Anderson, James Beckford, Yohan Blake, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Julien Dunkley, Allodin Fothergill and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
These are among a group who would have been accused of using substances which may not be considered potent enough to give athletes an extra boost but may fall into the category of masking agents.
We could put down those infractions to carelessness because they may not have checked what prohibited substances were contained in prescriptions or supplements that are bought over the counter.
There were exceptions to the rule and athletes like Patrick Jarrett (stanazolol) and Aston Morgan (steroids) were charged with much more serious offences and were given lengthy bans. Traces of nandralone were found in the system of the great Merlene Ottey but she got off on a technicality.
Steve Mullings and Dominique Blake have had their two strikes and are out as well although Blake was reportedly appealing her recent sanction.
Unfortunately, there is a history and subsequently they cannot stop people from pointing accusing fingers at them, for in a general sense we are usually judged by our antecedents.
Countries like Russia and Turkey have some of the highest doping violations in sport even though certain elements may not necessarily highlight this fact. But Jamaica may not be that fortunate because of their small population compared to other countries. It boggles the mind of some how they continue to produce so many world class athletes at all levels.
They emerged as the top nation at the recent World Youth Championships in Ukraine. They become easy targets for extreme scrutiny in some cases based merely on ethnic and political lines. Consequently, they have to watch their own backs more than ever.
As it stands, it appears that the athletes aren’t taking enough responsibility for what goes into their bodies and we can make this call with the blame game involved in the Powell/Simpson case.
Corrective measures must be taken to safeguard the integrity of individuals and the country by extension. In fact, this is so for all athletes and all countries for clearly the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has a very aggressive programme in place to catch potential drug cheats.
To WADA’s credit, they update the list of prohibited substances annually and they also have a wide-ranging educational programme in place that all stakeholders should familiarize themselves with.
With that in place, I don’t think anyone should be claiming ignorance of their regulations as an excuse if or when they are caught cheating. It is in the interest of the athlete, in particular, to take time and educate themselves for their own good.
At the end of the day, they are the ones who have to face the embarrassment and then go through the process of trying to clear their names and save their reputations.
Not forgetting, either, there’s always the likelihood of forfeiting lucrative endorsements and there will also be that element of doubt or suspicion even after you have served a ban.
Unfortunately, one of the downsides is that tainted athletes make it bad for the clean ones whose performances might be questioned especially if they are outstanding.
Barbados has had only a handful of doping cases and it is hoped that local athletes continue to play fair but equally as important remain extremely vigilant about what they put in their bodies.
It can’t be that difficult to do the research, consult with those in the know or at best leave it out if in doubt.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance sports journalist.