Jamaica's Drug Testing Programme Under the Microscope

The controversy surrounding Jamaica's drug testing program for athletes has continued with a recent investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The investigation was spurred by concerns raised by former Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) executive Renee Anne Shirley in a Sports Illustrated article in August:

There can be no doubt that the tiny island of 2.7 million is the world's preeminent sprint factory. And now the island needs a world-class anti-doping operation to go with its achievements on the track.

Following a meeting with WADA officials, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Neisha Headley released a statement affirming the government's commitment to upgrading its program, based on the recommendations from WADA:

These include the invitation to an established NADO to work with JADCO at an operational level, an acknowledgement by the Minister to undertake a legislative review of anti-doping law in Jamaica, along with the evaluation of JADCO’s governance and management structure. The Minister has indicated that an additional budgetary contribution of eight million Jamaican dollars…is to be made to JADCO to assist with these advances. The Minister has also confirmed that most of the vacant posts in operations have been filled.

In an interview with the BBC, Dr. Paul Wright from JADCO expressed great concern about the test results from Jamaican athletes:

Remember, all of these results except one were caught by Jadco. The problem is these people were tested positive in competition. That means, months before, you know the date of the test and the approximate time of the test.

So, if you fail an in-competition test, you haven't only failed a drug[s] test, you have failed an IQ test.

This could be the tip of the iceberg to have so many positives coming in competition.

However, Jamaica Olympic Committee President Mike Fennell said that many of the comments being made about the drug testing programme are “uninformed”:

We have some weaknesses that have been corrected.
The integrity of our testing programme has been proved and, therefore, this is just something we are going to strengthen. Work is being done to get outside assistance to see not just how we can not just strengthen the work of JADCO but raise the bar in terms of their professional activities and efficiency.

There was further controversy when a Wall Street Journal piece questioned the credentials of Dr. Herb Elliott, head of JADCO since 2012 and Jamaica's head doctor for the 2008 Olympics.

Initially Elliott dismissed the report and threatened possible legal action:

The man said I have no degree, no medical degree and no graduate degree. He claimed he called the Columbia University and they said they don't know anything about me, which is what a lot of universities would tell you if you just call because I haven't given them permission to give anybody anything.

Elliott later said that he was willing to resign in order to save JADCO

“In the interest of JADCO and Jamaica, I would resign. I don't know if I would do it right away, because I don't want anybody to feel that I did anything wrong and, therefore, that is why I am resigning.”

Track and Field's world governing body, the IAAF, has distanced itself from WADA with deputy general secretary Nick Davies calling the WADA criticism “excessive”. According to IAAF President Lamine Diack, Jamaican athletes were in fact among the most highly tested group of athletes in the world. Interestingly,  Jamaica sprinters Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the IAAF male and female World Athlete of the Year awards on Saturday night.

@Ricaaduh said he was always wary about the country vesting so much importance in sport success:

@uNcLe_IvAnn figured that if Jamaican athletes are tested so heavily abroad, then it should not matter how much they are tested by JADCO.

Donovan White implored Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to get involved in the situation:

Wayne Jolly responded that the authorities are not approaching the situation with the seriousness it warrants:

@JahMekYaGal was surprised that Dr. Elliott could have had such a long career with allegedly questionable credentials:

Tyrone Christopher was not convinced by Elliott's claims that he cannot remember when he earned his degrees:

Grace felt that with all of the other problems the country is facing, funding JADCO should not be the greatest priority:

Martyn Lewis took a more facetious look at the situation:

Ka'jue Ensemble was skeptical about reports that Dr. Herb Elliott planned to sue the Wall Street Journal:

What? JADCO Chairman Dr Herb Elliott has plans to sue Wall Street Journal? Really? Okay moving right along cause not one thing coming out of that so tell me something new.

Dennis McIntosh felt that the challenges are the result of institutional problems and not necessarily the fault of individual athletes:

I don't think that fingers should be pointed at the athletes, but at the organisations that have apparently not been providing what is needed by the athletes and what is required by the international bodies…

We have produced WORLD CLASS ATHLETES, through their individual and collective had work and sacrifice….They deserve WORLD CLASS ORGANISATIONS, INFRASTRUCTURE, SUPPORT, FACILITIES AND LEADERSHIP!

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