Innocent Until Proven Guilty


Athletes reputation tarnished by broadbrush labelling of adverse analytical findings

D Wharton, Los Angeles Times (23 August 2013)  Accessed on 29 October 2013.

D Wharton, Los Angeles Times (23 August 2013) < http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-jamaica-drug-tests-20130823,0,3890895.story#axzz2j7QqptxE > Accessed on 29 October 2013.

Several Jamaican athletes representing various sporting events have returned adverse analytical findings in the last few months. Recently, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association’s (JAAA) disciplinary panel recommended that Olympic gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown receive a public warning for a failed drug test. Campbell-Brown tested positive for a diuretic, which is a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs.

When these adverse analytical findings are made public it is often unclear whether the sportspersons tested positive for a diuretic, an anabolic steroid or a stimulant. Nonetheless, they are labelled by the media and the wider public as having taken a performance-enhancing drug. Even if they are eventually cleared, their image is forever tarnished.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the national anti-doping agencies treat the types of drugs differently in terms of penalties issued (penalties range from a verbal reprimand for stimulants to a lifetime ban for anabolic steroids). However, when an athlete tests positive for a prohibited substance, that is usually the only fact published. Therefore, in that respect, an athlete who took supplements containing a stimulant is treated the same as one who used steroids.This is grossly unfair to the sportsperson, the sport, and the fans.

It is suggested that the protocol of publicisingdrug tests results be changed. If WADA and the national anti-doping agencies are going to name athletes, then to be fair they must inform the public about the nature of the adverse analytical finding. To make the system more just it is recommended that it be stated if the substance is anabolic steroid, a stimulant, or a diuretic; whether the athlete declared the substance; and did the athlete receive a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) permitting him or her to take the substance.Athletes are human beings too, and some have legitimate ailments which require prescription medication that contain substances prohibited by WADA.

At the end of the day, a balance must be achieved. In its attempts to keep sports ‘clean’ and fair WADA and national anti-doping agencies ought to be careful not to unnecessarily defame innocent athletes.

Not to vilify Jamaican sportspersons but for the sake of information here is a list of Jamaica’s eight drug cases this year (taken from the Telegraph article “Jamaica ‘has never carried out a blood test’ says island’s former anti-doping chief” by Simon Hart, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/10384300/Jamaica-has-never-carried-out-a-blood-test-says-islands-former-anti-doping-chief.html ): 

Veronica Campbell-Brown: Athletics
Tested positive for diuretic hydrochlorothiazide in May. Received public reprimand this month but IAAF and Wada have right of appeal.

Kenneth Edwards: Taekwondo
Tested positive for a diuretic and has requested a backup test on his B sample.

Jermaine Hue: Football
Banned by FIFA for nine months last month after testing positive for the steroid dexamethasone after playing for Jamaica in World Cup qualifying match.

Asafa Powell: Athletics
Faces disciplinary hearing in January after testing positive for the stimulant oxilofrine. Blamed it on supplements given to him by his physical trainer.

Allison Randall: Athletics
The Jamaican discus-record holder tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide and faces a disciplinary hearing in December.

Demar Robinson: Athletics
Understood to have tested positive for an anabolic substance known as androgen receptor modulator.

Sherone Simpson: Athletics
Sprinter tested positive for oxilofrine. Her disciplinary hearing is scheduled for January 7-8.

Traves Smikle: Athletics
Discus thrower tested positive for diuretic hydrochlorothiazide. Disciplinary hearing in December.

Christopher Goldson

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