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Bahamas has good anti-doping record

There was a time in world athletics when a great cloud of suspicion hovered over countries from the Iron Curtain Bloc. The strong feelings of many in the rest of the world that athletes from those countries were competing unfairly and winning medals due to enhanced substances, were later justified.

It was established that there was in fact a system of doping that favored many of those athletes. The falling of the Iron Curtain caused a lot of information regarding systematic doping to surface. Incidences of former medal winners suffering physically from the ravages of doping further cemented the understanding of what went on for many years within the Iron Curtain.

From the 1980s to now, there has been a focus of anti-doping officials on North America as well. Many high-profile athletes (Jamaican-born Canadian Ben Johnson being the most noted) have been found guilty of using illegal substances to heighten their chances for success, and subsequently suspended and disqualified.

Following the emergence of the terrific sprinters from Jamaica during the last decade, a high point being reached during the 2008 Beijing Olympics when Usain Bolt captivated the world, that country found itself under the microscope. At least eight of that country’s athletes got into trouble in recent years including top female sprinter Shelly Ann Fraser.

Earlier this year, the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission was dissolved.

Accordingly, this entire Caribbean region is now being watched. Here in The Bahamas with the ongoing emergence of outstanding junior and senior athletes in track and field, swimming and amateur boxing there is additional pressure on the anti-doping principals to do an excellent job of monitoring.

The Bahamas signed on in 2003 to work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and leading the way for this nation has been the Bahamas Olympic Association (now Committee-BOC) and in particular former Minister of Sports Desmond Bannister. While the signing did take place under the previous central administration, it was Bannister of the present government who drove the initiative.

The BOC in its role as the National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO) has done a wonderful job. Testimony is the fact that just two Bahamian athletes during the era of high scrutiny have been suspended. It must be emphasized that WADA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been generally quite satisfied with the BOC in the lead Bahamian role of the anti-doping battle.

Now, there is a Bahamas Anti-Doping Commission that would do well to work diligently with the BOC. It just makes good sense to seek to ‘piggyback’ on what has been happening since 2003 under the BOC up to 2010 when the Commission was appointed.

Indeed, going forward with the full government’s responsibility for anti-doping, it is the Commission that is thus challenged to continually rise to the occasion in order to enable The Bahamas to maintain its fine reputation in the ongoing fight to discourage doping in sports.

As this country’s first NADO, the Olympic body did a fine job. The former and present Olympic executives are to be congratulated.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at frobertsturrup@gmail.com)

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