By Robert Taylor, Special to Trackalerts.Com
With the situation as it is surrounding the Jamaican athletics and the effort by Ms Ann Shirley to denigrate the organization she once head, I can only see positive for the future if the Jamaican athletic community learn from this situation. Getting to the top is hard and staying up there is even more difficult. Gone are the days of Jamaican sprint dominance being a novelty. Beijing 2008 was a time of world celebration and with the exception of certain US media house, most was enthralled with Jamaican sprinter performances. Now it is over two Olympics and three-world championships cycle. All the wide-eyed world fan and media support and acceptance have reduced if not dissipated.
Now it seems like the yam theory, Bolt height advantage theory, track and field being a national sport, the most compelling high school athletic competition in the world is set aside for a new theory. The way the news are being skewed and the way positive test are being put out of context is the new way of life. Beijing honeymoon is over, like a marriage, the time is for corrective measures and hard work to make a good situation last regardless of the outside forces that can destroy the marriage.
The Jamaican federation needs to embark on a major effort to train their athletes to be prepared for outside forces that will affect performances. We are living in a world where questions and accusations will be a part of great performances. The effort should be to develop athletes with proper public persona, humility and media savvy. Athletes should be educated and made to understand that regardless of how minor an offense, it can taint them for the rest of their athletic life and affect their earning power. Care should be taken in what they consume, who they trust and from whom they accept anything for consumption.
When the USA sprinters were dominating, many considered their male sprinters to be unduly arrogant. This did not seem to affect their earning power significantly. With US being a major economy, they were able to garner enough from the small niche the US market had for track and field. Jamaica on the other hand is different. The Jamaican economy is in dire straights for as long as I can remember. Corporate Jamaica only sponsors a very few athletes. Most earn their living from money earned outside Jamaica. Thus, the recent negative publicity from the foreign tabloid can be costly. The only way to deal with this issue over the long haul is for athletes’ great performance on and off and off the track. How one carries one self in an interview and interaction with fans is as important in marketing as performance on the field. Being Bolt will not work because Bolt personality is unique and natural to him. Each has their own personality so it is best to be oneself but in the same breath, be careful about coming across as arrogant and ignorant. In time of negative coverage, it is best to have fan support and some media friends. To go along with this, athletes from a young age should understand and accept that they can never be too vigilant with what they consume.
Also important, is the part WADA will play. WADA with its grandstanding and all will have to come out after all this is over and either give Jamaica a clean bill of health in their testing system or provide the necessary help they deemed necessary. In this case, WADA and Jamaica testing will be intertwined. At least I hope.
If as expected, Jamaica continues to produce top quality sprinters and athletes in other discipline, the critics will be there but muted to some extent. The Jamaican federation at this point, must understand that coordinated action with all stakeholders is important if they hope to overcome the barrage of negative publicity athletes and testing body are experiencing. Thus, I say things should only be better in the long run for Jamaica. At least the hypocrisy surrounding the so-called “developed testing system” will not be a problem for Jamaica since WADA, the only acceptable objective testing body will have a strong say in Jamaica drug testing system.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com