IN response to the recently-publicised breaches of substance use protocols in the athletics field, Mona School of Business & Management (MSBM) in partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI) Faculty of Medical Sciences engaged key stakeholders in the sporting fraternity to raise a proactive response.
The result was the MSBM/UWI Medical Sciences seminar entitled: Doping Prevention through Education held on Thursday, July 25 at the UWI (Mona) Faculty of Medical Sciences Teaching and Research Complex.
In attendance were representatives from several local sporting entities, including the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, Jamaica Triathlon Association, Jamaica Netball Association, Jamaica Baseball Association, Jamaica Rugby Union, Jamaica Visually Impaired Cricket Association, Jamaica Table Tennis Association, and the Jamaica Amateur Swimming Association. Several young athletes also attended, including members of the women's national Under-21 netball team, "The Sunshine Girls", and the Calabar High School track team.
The seminar featured detailed presentations by key stakeholders in the sporting industry alongside experts in related fields, followed by interactive discussions geared toward having frank dialogue about fair play and integrity in sports, and how best to support the athletics industry.
Speakers included Mike Fennell, president of the Jamaica Olympic Association; Dr Rachael Irving, chairperson of the Anti-Doping Committee, senior lecturer and research fellow in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI; Grace Jackson, Olympian and sports development director, UWI; Carole Beckford, president, The Business of Sports; Dr Aggrey Irons, psychiatrist and president of the Medical Association of Jamaica; Alando Terrelonge, attorney at law; Dr Paula Dawson, lecturer in sports medicine, UWI; Dr Neville Graham, General surgeon and head of the Caribbean School of Sports, UTech; Lincoln Eatmon, attorney at law; and Dr Joy Callender, nutritionist.
Speaking on the challenges of the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) list Dr Irving noted: "Biologically, similar substances can cause an athlete to test positive. Even within natural supplements 15 per cent have unlisted chemical properties."
Dr Irving went on to explain that because the list contains un-named substances that fall under 'families' of drugs, such unspecified substances are harder to test for. Dr Callender supported this statement, positing that proper nutrition eliminates the perceived need for supplements.
Fennell called for a campaign of education not just for the athletes, but for their support teams and communities. "It is only the athlete that ends up taking the blow. Other parties who may have contributed, whether knowingly or unknowingly, aren't always held accountable."
Fennell emphasised that such education should be incorporated in schools so that the information could be repeatedly absorbed from an earlier age. Alando Terrelonge supported the call for wider public education on the complexities of doping violations to avoid knee-jerk reactions.
The attorney explained that, while athletes remain responsible for any substance they use, not all violations result in a lifetime ban and that excessive consequences may be mitigated by proper legal action.
The medical, sport, legal and business experts took steps to formulate the best approach in sensitising the various stakeholders about the rules and regulations involved in anti-doping practices, and to determine the country's best course of action for navigating the complexities of global sport regulations. Through rigorous discourse several challenges were found, with the primary complications being cited as: difficulties in navigating WADA list, the pervasive use of natural supplements, the level of education of athletes and their support teams, lack of legal support, and the need for funding to pursue the necessary testing and training.