In mid-July news broke that Tyson Gay had failed a routine drugs test; hot on its heels we heard from local media that Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and two other Jamaican athletes had also tested positive for banned substances. In Jamaica the bombshell had fallen a month earlier with local media reporting news of Veronica Campbell-Brown’s failure to pass her drug tests. Newspapers, TV and radio all headlined her story, sensationally portraying her as a cheat, well in advance of the IAAF’s own verdict on the matter.
The VCB story had been leaked to the Jamaican press and the media here ran with it with almost reckless alacrity considering their usual reticence in providing information on matters of public interest. Less than a week later, June 19 to be precise, Sports Illustrated carried an AP story pointing out that according to the IAAF Campbell-Brown’s positive test for a diuretic appeared to be a ‘lesser’ offense attracting a lesser sanction or “reduced penalty – a suspension of a few months to a year or a public warning – rather than a standard two-year ban.”
A subsequent AP article also carried by Sports Illustrated and referring to the five Jamaican cases added, “The known banned substances in these cases, a diuretic and a stimulant, don’t resemble the steroids and designer drugs that took down some of the world’s top athletes – Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Ben Johnson, to name a few – over the past years and decades.”
So in fact, far from using these lapses as opportunities to discredit Jamaica’s sprinting programme, Sports Illustrated, by choosing to carry the Associated Press stories mentioned above, seemed to be at pains to draw attention to the slightness of the offences, in a way that Jamaican media was not. So much for the big, bad foreign media theories. On the contrary I remember Tara Playfair-Scott, Asafa’s publicist, pleading on Twitter with local media to be more responsible in their reporting. For an elaboration of the kind of doping irregularities Jamaican athletes stand accused of and how different these are from the more serious infractions Tyson Gay and others are accused of see “Performance-Enhancing Drugs: What Are They and What Are They Not?” by Professor Trevor Hall.
On the very same day the Sports Illustrated (AP) article on VCB came out Anne Shirley posted the following on Facebook upbraiding the local press for prematurely finding the senior athlete guilty of a worse offence than turned out to be the case in the end:
Do we understand that there was no need for the media speculation and hype over the past few days if only we had allowed the IAAF and JAAA to announce the fact that there was an anti-doping rule violation? In our haste to be first and to have all the “facts” before anyone else had the story, information was leaked to the Jamaican media when it should not have been, and we all ran with it. What if we had left it until today so that this was the beginning of the public story?????? Would there have been a difference in the coverage?
I choose to open this post on Anne Shirley’s August 19 Sports Illustrated article thus for several reasons. That article, titled An inside look at Jamaican track’s drug-testing woes has generated so much controversy, condemnation, hysteria and vitriol towards its author that I worried I was witnessing yet another lynching—a virtual one this time.
“We need to lock her up for treason!” exclaimed one young friend on Facebook, a sentiment echoed by an alarmingly large number of Jamaicans judging by statements on radio talk shows, Facebook and Twitter.
The widespread assumption seems to be that Sports Illustrated, an American magazine, is out to get small, hapless Jamaica whose valiant sprinters have brought it so much glory and pride in recent years. The world is jealous of Jamaica, people here think, most of all the United States, whose athletes have by and large been forced to follow in the wake of Jamaica’s triumphant superstars rather than ahead of them.
Why then did Anne Shirley decide to ‘betray’ the nation by going to a large American media conglomerate to complain about the failings of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission rather than our own national media, ask her critics. Failing that why didn’t she take her complaints to WADA, the body in charge of regulating drug testing internationally? Why moreover had she chosen this particular time to “besmirch” Jamaica’s reputation internationally by suggesting that JADCO was inadequately equipped to deliver the stringent. internationally compliant, drug testing standards required? Let’s look at these questions one by one.
First, is it true that Anne did not go to the local media? No. Absolutely untrue. When what she calls the Category 5 hurricane hit (the news of the failed drug tests by 5 athletes) Shirley, who headed JADCO for a brief seven months in 2012-13, took to the airwaves trying to alert local media to the dangers that lay ahead if Jamaica continued to operate administrative facilities that fell so far short of the world-class stature of its athletes. I personally heard her on Nationwide Radio on July 17 saying that the local anti-doping regimen wasn’t as up to par or world-class as the athletes themselves and that this would pose a huge problem in future. She warned that international Sport was big business and that Jamaica needs a truly independent, fearless organization with a strong management team and advisory board. The implication of course is that this is not what we have at the moment.
Then on August 7, Shirley wrote a letter to the editor of the Gleaner which was singled out as the Letter of the Day in which she challenged the veracity of statistics provided by JADCO and its chairman, Herb Elliott, to WADA. As a result, she claimed, the numbers in the WADA database did not reflect the true level of testing that JADCO had undertaken in 2012-13:
I contend that JADCO authorised and paid for more tests on Jamaican athletes, particularly in track and field, than have been reported and published in the WADA statistics in 2012, primarily due to a reporting error that has not been corrected in the ADAMS database that was made before I arrived at JADCO in mid-July, 2012.
I further state that these official figures do not show the true picture of the work carried out by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission as testing authority on behalf of the Government and taxpayers of Jamaica.
I would challenge the chairman and the board of JADCO to refute my statement. And I suggest, respectfully, that the record needs to be amended by the board of JADCO forthwith to reflect the true level of testing carried out by the commission in 2012.
Finally, on the question of the vexing issue of whether or not JADCO actively conducted testing in the “off-season” (i.e. the October-January period), I can further verify that during the period August-December 2012, in keeping with international best practice to place greater emphasis on out-of-competition testing in the off-season, JADCO conducted a total of 72 tests – with 12 tests conducted in-competition and 60 tests out-of-competition. And this level of testing continued into the first quarter of 2013.
On August 13 the Gleaner again carried a piece by Anne Shirley written in response to an article by Delano Franklyn expressing surprise at the discrepancy between Anne Shirley’s statistics and the official figures put out by JADCO. She provided extensive data to substantiate her claims that JADCO had conducted adequate off-competition testing during her tenure there and that the figures provided to WADA had under-reported this. A table she provided shows a huge increase in off-competition testing during the seven months she was CEO of JADCO. As far as I know no one has been able to refute her figures to date. Her article concluded by saying:
… rather than seeking to crucify the messenger, I would respectfully suggest that Mr Franklyn and other senior technocrats at the Office of the Prime Minister need to review the current state of staffing and organisational depth at JADCO – particularly given the fact that the agency should be far advanced in preparing cases for the six AAFs and one appeal that are on its plate and ensure that the necessary corrective actions are taken with immediate effect.
So we’ve established that Anne Shirley had done more than enough to alert local media as well as the public to the potential problems if JADCO was not rapidly made to comply with international best practices in drug testing. On August 7, the Gleaner wrote an editorial, Get with the programme, JADCO, which corroborated the uncooperativeness and lack of transparency of the JADCO board also highlighted by Shirley:
…While we do not believe that hardcore doping is a feature of Jamaican athletics, it is our view, though, that a robust and transparent programme of testing is not only a deterrent to drug cheating, but the best answer to the Contes and Pounds who may want to believe the worst.
…It was only last week, after our too-many appeals in these columns, and in the face of unfortunate global questioning of the legitimacy of our athletes, that JADCO’s chairman, Dr Herb Elliott, caused it to dribble that the agency performed 106 tests in 2012, 68 of which were in competition. In the five years of its existence, JADCO conducted 860 tests – 504 in competition and 356 out of competition.
The Gleaner went on to say that it didn’t believe that JADCO’s failure to provide the data the media was asking for was necessarily because it had anything to hide but because “it is subject, we believe, to an old-fashion[ed] leadership culture that is uncomfortable with transparency, hamstrung by a fear of criticism, and views the control of information as power.”
This certainly jives with what Anne Shirley said in her Sports Illustrated article:
When I took over, in mid-July [in 2012, just before the London Olympics], 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.
I urged the authorities in Jamaica to get more serious about anti-doping before a scandal hit us. I had long had reason for concern. I quietly tried to point out the presence of Jamaican threads linked to the BALCO case, via the testimony of Angel (Memo) Heredia about his contacts with elite Jamaican athletes. My position is that these threads, no matter how thin, should not be brushed aside as malice, but treated seriously, as they represent a potential threat to the integrity of our athletes and our nation.
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.
On the question of timing and why Shirley had published such a damning article in the international media at this point, it’s clear that the embattled former JADCO head felt she had no other choice. Having raised her worries locally more than once and seeing no action being taken or credible response provided by JADCO and little or no follow up by media here on the questions she was asking (“I’m giving you the questions that YOU need to be asking.” she said to ace journalist Emily Crooks on TVJ’s Impact), she decided to up the pressure by speaking to Sports Illustrated, an internationally recognized magazine that had previously behaved more responsibly towards the Jamaican athletes accused of failing their drug tests than Jamaican media itself. Let me refer you back to the evidence of this provided at the top of this post.
Let it be noted that it was the American sports magazine that approached Ms. Shirley after reading her Gleaner letters, not the other way around. Note also that virtually none of our local media took the trouble to approach her in a similar way or to follow up on her disclosures with an investigative article or in-depth feature on JADCO and its preparedness either to test the athletes adequately or to put in place the high-level legal defence teams the five found to have breached the code would require.
In a follow up interview conducted with her Anne Shirley told me the following:
One of the critical issues at present facing the current JADCO administration and one of my greatest concerns is that VCB, Asafa, Sherone and the other three athletes are entitled to a fair hearing of their AAFs in a timely manner — this is their careers and livelihood we are talking about. THIS IS PERHAPS THE MAIN REASON FOR THE TIMING OF MY SI ARTICLE!!!!!!
If my information is correct that there is currently no staff in the Doping Control/Results Management area, who is putting together the evidence packages, witness statements, expert analysis etc needed for JADCO to give with instructions to the lawyers who will present the case against each athlete in separate hearings? And have lawyers been retained by JADCO? SOMEONE NEEDS TO ASK JADCO THESE QUESTIONS!!!
Jamaica cannot afford to have any or all of the cases thrown out on a technicality.
And what is the timetable for each Hearing Panel to start the respective hearings? The Dominique Blake appeal is going on now — but the other 5 AAFs (excluding VCB’s) now need to be scheduled. Again time is of the essence.
BTW re the VCB Hearing — under the statute in Jamaica (ie the Anti-Doping Act 2008) — how come JAAA has put together a Hearing Panel? Does JAAA have its own written rules? And who is putting together the case management for the JAAA? Note the testing at the Meet was supervised by an IAAF representative, but the actual tests were carried out by JADCO’s Doping Control teams. Would be interested to know if the witness statements have been taken (and by whom), and look forward to the expert testimonies on both sides. Understand this Hearing will get underway in September.
Re the testing programme — We have to put EPO testing back into our testing programme and now introduce blood testing. All we are doing at this time is plain urine tests which is not enough.
These are some of my major concerns — I felt that I had no choice but to act as I did. And while I am not in a position, even in these comments to go any further, I trust that the investigations will be thorough covering areas and concerns that I have already shared with the powers that be (it was not for a lack of trying!).
Finally — a detailed explanation needs to be made publicly by JADCO as to how the WADA statistics for 2012 state that JADCO conducted 106 tests as Testing Authority and a later news release was issued (August 14?) that I was correct in stating that the total number of tests conducted by JADCO in 2012 was 179. Why the difference since the WADA statistics come from the Lab info that is posted in the ADAMS database.
If the JADCO test numbers in ADAMS and the WADA official 2012 are understated, then are the report of the IAAF tests conducted on Jamaican athletes overstated? Not one journalist has followed up on this logic. No one has sought answers to the questions that I suggested to Delano Franklyn.
These are some of the areas that journalists and others need to probe and ask questions about, not go on about me exposing our dirty linen abroad.
As Dick Pound has publicly stated (his latest comments are in this BBC report) — the world is already watching Jamaica.
I have no regrets for speaking out. On the contrary, I feel that the authorities now have no choice but to act.
Finally let’s look at the question of why Shirley didn’t go to WADA to complain about the inadequacies of JADCO, typified by the following comments on Twitter and Facebook:
Ingrid Green: If all she was getting at is a dysfunctional JADCO, why go to Sports Illustrated, Why not contact WADA and discuss her concerns with them, ask for help. She put the Athletes under a shadow with her article and did Nothing to help the programme.
Cindy’sDaughter @CindysDaughter: Caller on Nationwide with an excellent point. If you were so concerned Anne Shirley, why not go to WADA?
Perhaps its not widely known here in Jamaica that WADA has its own problems. It is now becoming increasingly clear that doping in Sport is the norm rather than the exception. On August 22, 2013, the New York Times published an article about research commissioned by WADA, the findings of which it was now delaying disseminating.
According to John Hoberman, a University of Texas professor and expert on performance-enhancing drugs, the study’s findings dispelled the notion that doping was a deviant behavior among a few athletes.
“Either the sport is recruiting huge numbers of deviants,” he said, “or this is simply routine behavior being engaged in by, more or less, normal people.”
The article quoted Dick Pound on the current state of drug testing worldwide, the same former WADA chairman who has repeatedly raised concerns about Jamaica’s lack of adequate testing practices.
In part, he and his team concluded, “There is no general appetite to undertake the effort and expense of a successful effort to deliver doping-free sport.”
Pound said in a telephone interview Thursday: “There’s this psychological aspect about it: nobody wants to catch anybody. There’s no incentive. Countries are embarrassed if their nationals are caught. And sports are embarrassed if someone from their sport is caught.”
Hah! Isn’t that exactly what the Anne Shirley saga has proved in the local context? It’s highly unlikely therefore that WADA would have done the needful by putting JADCO’s house in order for us. In any case this is something that Jamaicans themselves should be undertaking, with or without foreign assistance, instead of baying for the blood of the rare citizen willing to stick her neck out and speak the truth. We should also be studying her statements over the last year on Facebook and elsewhere closely. In one of several Facebook posts Shirley asked people to take note of one Patrick Arnold “the mastermind behind a number of the supplements, creams etc… and remember his name.”
In concluding I have to agree with Barry Wade who suggested on his blog that the problem Anne Shirley is faced with is that she has disclosed an inconvenient truth and done so in an international arena. What we really need to fear are not the Anne Shirleys of Jamaica, indeed we need a thousand more like her if we really want to change the rotten state of affairs prevailing in almost all our institutions.
What should worry us is that older generation of technocrats, bureaucrats and leaders unwilling to admit that its time for them to retire and leave the competitive business of sports administration to younger. more savvy professionals just as internationally competitive as Jamaica’s athletes. In the absence of this we are leaving our hardworking, stellar athletes open to the kinds of suspicions leveled by people like Victor Conte, Dick Pound and others. For a neat summary of these watch the video below or read the comments made by Conte in the interview posted below with Scott Ostler done at the end of July. Do we really think JADCO as constituted now is going to serve our athlete’s best interests in the face of such serious allegations?
Anne Shirley’s timing is perfect. We have three years to get our house in order before the next Olympics. Let’s stop abusing her and do it. Below is a partial transcript of the damaging views of Jamaican athletes and their success, that Anne Shirley and others are concerned about.
Is JADCO as it is constituted now really capable of dispelling these rumours if that is what they are? If so could they outline for us their plan of action and strategy to contain them?
Ostler: What about the Jamaican stuff (sprinters busted for alleged use of steroids)?
Conte: Well I’ve believed for a long time that it is state-sponsored doping. I believe the Jamaican Olympic Committee is in on it, I believe the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commision is in on it, I believe they’re being tipped off. When Usain Bolt gets a $6 million piece of beachfront property in exchange for winning the gold medals, this is tremendous for tourism in Jamaica—and understand, these are my opinions, right?—and I said this a long time ago, I’m highly suspicious of this, and I’m going to tell you when it started.
In 2008 I was asked by (British sprinter) Dwain Chambers to write a letter to the UK anti-doping (commission) listing all the drugs that I gave these athletes, the seven or eight different drugs, the purposes, the frequencies, the dosages, etc., which I did. This was in March. Then in May or June when they have the Jamaican Olympic trials, Veronica Campbell. . .competed in the 100 meters, she was already an Olympic gold medalist, she came in fourth and ran 10.88, which is very fast. And I thought, “Who are these other runners, that she doesn’t even make the team?”
Shelly-Ann Fraser, I looked it up and in 2007 her PR was 11.31. Less than a year later she goes to the Olympics and wins in 10.78. Now that is more than five meters faster. Who improves five meters in one year? So I went on the record. . .”Oh, my god, this is highly suspicious.” Bolt’s fastest time was something like 10.03, next thing you know he runs 9.72. It was just too much, too soon.
I worked with a couple athletes from another Caribbean country, and (one of them talked to a friend of mine) who calls me and says, “Oh my god, you’re not going to believe this but. . .they won all the medals in the women’s 100, they read your article that was sent to WADA that you gave to the UK, and they’re using all your protocols, that were used by Dwain Chambers and Kelli White, including the T3, the thyroid medication.” So they followed my blueprint, but WADA didn’t pay any attention to it.
I know all the track writers, and in the mixed zone under the stadium in Beijing, they said when (Jamaican) athletes came into the mixed zone to do interviews with the media, that Herb Elliott, who is the head of (Jamaican anti-doping), the medical director who is in charge of collecting the urine samples from the athletes, was chest-bumping with all the guys on the relay team!
Dick Pound wrote a recent report. Two things. One, he followed my recommendation that they do more CIR testing, and secondly, he said the primary problem was that the WADA officials were really looking the other way, they didn’t really have a genuine interest in catching people, that they’re more worried about the political aspects and receiving funding.