So, the news is finally out and many Jamaicans are in a state of shock. Jamaica’s ‘queen of the track’, Veronica Campbell Brown has failed a drug test.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist, defending 200-metre world champion, and 100-metre world champion returned an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) after competing at the Jamaica International Invitational on May 4, 2013 at the National Stadium here in Kingston. For two days after the news first broke that one of Jamaica’s star athletes had failed a drug test, Jamaicans waited on pins and needles to hear who that athlete was. On Friday night, their worst fears were realized.
Many couldn’t believe it. They still can’t and have simply chosen to run away from it. VCB was perhaps the most ‘pure’ of our stars. Most of us don’t know very much about her because of her very rigid approach to her privacy but we love her because she is ‘humble’, a trait most Jamaicans seem to connect with. We see Bolt, the fastest man alive ever, and commercially the most successful track and field athlete in history, as being cocky but to us VCB seemed like a sweet innocent soul who has been winning global titles ever since she was a child. We live vicariously through her; because of her we were all champions.
Now however, we don’t know the full story about Veronica. Perhaps she has a very good explanation as to how and why she returned this AAF.
Maybe she was taking something to get her weight down, who knows but whatever it is, we hope those reasons will be good enough to absolve her of any culpability. What we do know is that her pristine image is now all but shattered and we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Many are having sleepless nights, eagerly waiting for the hearing she will face and where she will try to explain how the diuretic Lasix ended up in her bloodstream. What she presents will determine whether or not she will be banned from a sport she helped prop up for so many years as one of its greatest ambassadors.
Meanwhile, we all have to look at what we had believed and make some serious psychological adjustments.
For years, when American athletes dominated the world of track and field, it was very easy for us to point fingers at them accusing them of being drug cheats. Many were. The list is long. Marion Jones, Jerome Young, Regina Jacobs, Just Gatlin, Alvin and Calvin Harrison, Randy Barnes, Anthony Dees, Tim Montgomery, Mark Jelks, Kelli White and it goes on and on. We took some sort of perverse pride in thinking that American athletes were cheats and that ours were not.
We told ourselves that no Jamaican athlete needed to cheat. We fooled ourselves that Jamaica’s athletes were more naturally gifted than any other on this planet and that if they ever did cheat they couldn’t live here in Jamaica. Since Jamaica starred at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008, the world has had us under a microscope and has been pointing fingers at us, accusing us of being cheats. They challenge the integrity of our drug testing system and that there are ‘dirty’ labs here in the Caribbean producing drugs that testers can’t find. I must admit that I find that one hard to believe, but I have never fooled myself into believing that we, here in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, are always above board when it comes to doping.
Since 2008 several of Jamaica’s star athletes have run afoul of the World Anti-Doping Agencies (WADA) Code. Yohan Blake, the defending 100m world champion missed the 2009 World Championships in Berlin because of a doping violation and served a three-month ban. So did Sherri Ann Brooks, the 2006 Commonwealth Games 100m champion, Marvin Anderson and Allodin Fothergill were also banned in that incident. Then Steve Mullings, who failed a drug test in 2004 and returned from that ban to win a medal in 2009 as a member of the relay team in Berlin. He has now been banned for life following a doping violation in 2012. Our two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce was banned for six months for taking Oxycodone. Just this week Dominique Blake was banned for six years and now VCB has been accused of cheating. That’s eight violations in the last five years and more than 20 if you go back further.
Can we truly say that Jamaicans are clean? And for those who say that the home-based athletes are clean, can we truly say that after the incidents with Blake et al and the Frazer-Pryce incident (even though her violation occurred in Shanghai, China). There is a popular saying, ‘if you live in a glass house don’t throw stones’. Many of us could learn a thing or two by paying close attention to that saying because it would make our lives that much easier.
After years of being accused of being possible cheats, evidence is turning up in favour of our accusers. The only way we can fight back is to be more diligent in how we administer our doping controls. We need to test more, we need our athletes to take greater responsibility for what they put in their bodies and we, as a people, should be less quick to criticize and accuse other athletes of doping just because they beat our athletes. I remember when people tried to justify Merlene Ottey’s failure to win more international gold medals by saying that she was being beaten by cheats forgetting that Ottey herself failed a drug test for Nandrolone and was only absolved on a technicality.
We can only hope VCB gets a similar reprieve but her case should help us put things into proper perspective. We, as a people have run afoul of many rules and regulations, why do we believe that our athletes are any different?