Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) chairman Herb Elliott last week led a mass resignation of the organization’s executive management as the fallout continues from the country’s drugs crisis.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) this month carried out an emergency audit of Jamaica’s anti-doping program after eight Jamaicans, including former world 100 meters record holder Asafa Powell, three-time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and London 2012 silver medalist Sherone Simpson, failed tests.
The visit came amid claims from former JADCO executive director Renee Anne Shirley that just one out-of-competition test was conducted in the six months leading up to London 2012.
The resignations appears the first step towards improving the situation.
Jamaica’s Sports Minister Natalie Neita-Headley described them as an opportunity to give the Government “a fresh start” as it reorganises the commission.
“Quite recently, JADCO’s commissioners met and acknowledged that there is a public perception of the existence of conflicts of interests among some of the members of the commission,” she said in a statement.
“The commissioners have taken a decision, in the national interest and in order to facilitate the re-structuring of JADCO to tender their resignations which will take effect on December 31.
“The Prime Minister respects the decision of the commissioners and has accepted their resignations.”
Neita-Headley also explained other steps to be taken, including a review of existing anti-doping legislation and the appointment of qualified testing officers.
She used this as evidence of positive change and evidence that the Jamaican authorities are not being “non-compliant” in their response.
“At no time has WADA ever deemed Jamaica or JADCO to be non-compliant,” she said.
“At no time has WADA threatened to bar Jamaica or Jamaican athletes from participating in any international event – Olympic Games, World Championship or the like.
“As we continue to build on this rich sporting legacy, the Government of Jamaica will continue to do whatever it can to protect our good name and reputation and in the maintenance of a doping-free sporting environment.”
The response has also included a promise to WADA from Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, that drug-testing of the country’s sports stars would be a “top priority.”
However, there has been criticism elsewhere Dr Paul Wright, among the country’s most senior drug testers, who claimed Jamaica’s rash of failed tests might be the “tip of an iceberg”.
This produced a strong response from athletes including two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly Ann Fraser, the International Association of Athletics Federations Female World Athlete of the Year, who has threatened to refuse to run in major events unless the authorities gave greater help to athletes.
Six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt, and Male Athlete of the Year, has also been vocal over the crisis and spoke of his concern that Jamaica’s reputation may cost him, and others, lucrative sponsorship deals as they prepare for Rio 2016.