By Robert Taylor, Special to TrackAlerts.com
It was recently announced that starting 2015 Jamaica Inter- Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) is going to have drug testing. Many are of the opinion that drug testing is not happening but as recently as February 2014 Gibson Relays, drug testing was done on some high school athletes. I understand the need for transparency especially with the improvement in times being run by some the athletes. Nevertheless, I am wondering what the criteria that are set for drug testing are. Some of the athletes will be tested when they go to the world junior games, the world youth games and the Carifta games. I know some school system in the USA have testing for their athletes but these tests are mainly for recreational drugs and steroids, since many of the high school kids use marijuana and steroids.
Fast forward to Jamaica, what is the age limit for those to be tested? What exactly is the testers looking for? Surely, they cannot equate a 16 year old taking for example an asthma medication with that of a professional athlete. The extreme case of painkiller with Shelly-Ann Fraser Price situation I hope will not be applied to school kids running at a national high school meet. I can understand the testing of those who meet the world junior age limit. What I would like to know is if there is an age limit? Recently a 14 year old ran 48.54 over the 400m. An excellent run I would say. Are they going to test this kid? If he were my son, my answer would be “over my dead body”. He is too young to represent his country at the international level so there is no justifiable reason for him to be tested in my mind.
I look at the Veronica Campbell episode and the barrage of misinformation that came out of the Jamaican press, what will happen to a talented kid whose parents do not have the financial wherewithal to give him adequate clothing much less quality legal representation to defend his/her case. The way JADCO is grandstanding, I am afraid they might be tempted to create another public fiasco on the back of a child. I think I am sounding paranoid here but the Veronica Campbell Brown situation is creating thoughts of ethics problem within JADCO in many Jamaican track fans mind. I guess the pressure the USA and United Kingdom (UK) media is such they have no time to worry what the Jamaican fans think.
An important question on many minds is who is funding the high school testing program? Fairly recently I was hearing about not enough funds to do testing on the senior athletes and now I am hearing about testing at the high school championships. The fund must be coming from somewhere but from whom. At many development meets, there are kids performing without adequate gears so it cannot be ISSA, unless ISSA has a misplaced agenda. It would be sad if the Jamaican government were paying for it. Not with the education system as it is. The education system is inverted with those who have the least needs are put in schools with the greatest resources and those with the most needs are put in schools with the least resources. To not spend the basic minimum on what is required for the needy schools to develop quality students for the future, how can they afford to fund drug testing for high school athletic competition? If this is the case, that should be grounds for the government to lose the next national election.
If not any of those listed above, then who is providing the funds? Why would they have such a keen interest on testing high school kids from the Island of Jamaica? If so, are they paying for other high schools athletic competitions around the world?
I cannot say there should be no testing but the information should be made public. There should be open discussion by all stakeholders. This include principals or school administrators, coaches, parents and the ministry of education. Protecting the children should be the first and most important thing. I hope before the testing announcement, a developed program is in place to educate the athletes. It is irresponsible if no agenda to educate is in place. With testing, there should be responsibilities and any adult who fail a child should be severely punished. Great performances should be intertwined with transparency. Nevertheless, the interest of the child should not be sacrifice for either.
With all this being said, I hope to see a 2014 Jamaica high school Boys and girls athletic championship filled intrigue, excitement, great performances and all the tests turn up clean. If athletes were being tested at the Gibson Relays, I see no reason why they would exempt this year and wait until 2015.