Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jamaica's Doping Hurricane

At Sports Illustrated Renee Anne Shirely, the head of Jamaica's Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO, somewhat equivalent to USADA) from June, 2012 to February, 2013, has written a powerful indictment of Jamaican athletics and its approach to doping.

She writes:
JADCO was formally established only in 2008, and the program has had a difficult childhood. In 2010, after WADA head David Howman pointed out that JADCO had board members who also lead sports associations on the island, the entire 15-member JADCO board of directors was dissolved. One of the dismissed board members, Dr. Herbert Elliott, was Jamaica's team doctor at the Beijing Olympics, and is now chairman of JADCO.

In July, Elliott was vague when asked about the number of out-of-competition tests conducted by JADCO in 2013. "I don't want our athletes to know whether it's 400 or 500 or whatever," he told The Guardian. But Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller recently told Parliament that—in total since 2009—there have been 356 out-of-competition tests conducted in Jamaica.

The current program—while improved—makes a mockery of Jamaica's posturing and flames suspicion more than it douses it. Between the time Between the time the current board was appointed, in February 2012, and the start of the London Olympics late last July, out-of-date testing kits and limited staffing resources resulted in a total of one out-of-competition test. Below are the full 2012 testing numbers by month—with not one out-of-competition test in the three months leading into the Games . . .
Shirley explains some of the challenges that she faced, leading to her stepping down:
When I took over, in mid-July, JADCO did not have a large enough staff in place to carry out rigorous anti-doping programs. The Doping Control/Technical Services and the Education/Communications Units had only one junior staff member each, and the director positions were vacant. There was no Whereabouts Information Officer—in charge of keeping track of athletes so that they could be tested out of competition—and only one full-time doping control officer. The committee in charge of reviewing the legitimacy of medical prescriptions for athletes was without a chairman and had never met.

Other aspects of the program were equally troubled—and troubling. I arrived to find no accounting staff in place, and no monthly financial statements had been produced in the five years since inception. JADCO was behind on payments for a number of its bills. . .

During my time with JADCO, I also voiced concern about internet purchases of drugs and supplements by athletes, as there is reason to believe that some Jamaican athletes have been careless in their Internet purchases of dietary supplements, the ingredients labels of which are not tightly regulated in Jamaica. But despite my efforts I could not get any member of the JADCO board or member of Jamaica's Cabinet to take it seriously. They believe that Jamaica does not have a problem.

The more frustrated I became about the lack of staff and attention to issues I raised, the worse the working environment became for me, and in February of this year I met with a group of JADCO board members and we agreed it would be best if I stepped aside. Dr. Elliott has voiced his strong opinion that Jamaican anti-doping efforts are satisfactory. But this is not a time for grandstanding. In the wake of both recent achievements on the track and devastating positive tests off it, we need to believe that our athletes are clean and that our anti-doping program is independent, vigorous, and free from any semblance of conflicts of interest.
She recommends that the Jamaican government step in to provide greater oversight of JADCO. The JADCO sits under the Jamaican Prime Minister's Office and is thus a government entity, which differentiates it from USADA, which is in a quasi-governmental role.

A editorial in The Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper, last week highlighted what is at stake in the poor governance of JADCO:
[C]are has to be taken that nothing is done to weaken Jamaica's athletics brand. That is why we are concerned by the seeming managerial governance dysfunction at the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO).

For a long time, external critics questioned the robustness of JADCO's drug-testing programme. This newspaper lamented its lack of transparency.

Eventually, JADCO's chairman, Dr Herb Elliott, lifting the veil slightly, caused it to dribble out that JADCO conducted 106 tests last year. But the agency's former executive director has since revealed that that figure is 50 per cent shy of the real mark and hints at bungling and incompetence at the level of the governors.

JADCO has offered no response of clarity, nor has it shared a strategic programme. Those are old ways that hurt Jamaica.


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