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Davis-Thompson urges athletes to stay clean

  • Pauline Davis-Thompson.

Guardian Sports Editor

Published: Aug 19, 2013

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MOSCOW, Russia – These 14th International Association of Athletic Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships in Moscow, Russia, have hit the Caribbean region hard, in terms of top athletes being caught cheating and disgracing the sport.

The championships, which wrapped up yesterday, featured the world’s best track and field athletes. However, before the event got started on August 10, a number of Caribbean athletes failed doping tests.

One of the most revered athletes in Caribbean history, Veronica Campbell-Brown, tested positive for a banned diuretic, fellow Jamaicans Sherone Simpson and former world record holder Asafa Powell received positive doping tests from their nationals, and Trinidadians Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Aaron Armstrong were sent home from these world championships after tests from their national championships revealed illegal substances in their systems. Even Bahamian Trevorvano Mackey is rumored to have failed a drug test.

IAAF Council Member, Bahamian Pauline Davis-Thompson said that it is unfortunate, and they have to clean up the sport.

“First of all, it was very shocking to me. The Caribbean on the whole is known for having the cleanest, more talented and fastest athletes, and what we have seen over the past six months is that this region has been hit hard. That has now put a black eye on our region,” she said.

“I just want to tell the young athletes out there that it doesn’t pay to cheat. You are going to be caught, and you are going to humiliate your country, yourself and your family. That is a stigma that is going to be with you for the rest of your life.

“People will always be suspicious. Your best bet is just to stay away. Really and truly, it’s not worth it. Later on in life you would develop all kinds of sicknesses and diseases, and you won’t have enough money to take care of yourselves.”

Davis-Thompson herself has never failed a drug test. As a matter of fact, she was a beneficiary of doping as she was upgraded to the gold medalist in the women’s 200m from the Sydney Olympic Games when Marion Jones admitted to taking banned substances.

“These athletes know what they are putting in their systems, and if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask questions. They could go on the internet if they are not sure. The IAAF has a list of prohibited substances, and if there are any questions, just pick up the telephone and ask someone,” said Davis-Thompson.

“I don’t even keep drugs in my house for headaches or anything like that. Our athletes, we have to make sure that they are surrounded by the right people. The young ones like Shaunae, Anthonique and Ryan can bring a lot of thrills to The Bahamas, but they have to be careful because there are some coaches out there, and some managers out there who will convince the athletes that they cannot make it to the top without taking these pills or injections. As an athlete, you have to be strong willed.”

Davis-Thompson said that the sport of athletics on the whole is held to a higher standard because of the “pure sports” motto, and it is vital that they maintain a clean image.

“People tend to spank us, and they spank us hard. They consider athletics to be a universal sport – the mother of all sports, running, jumping and throwing. It’s very natural,” she said. “Even though we are the federation that tests our athletes on a continuous basis, when one of our athletes test positive, the world gets upset. It’s like track and field is supposed to be ‘pure sports’, universal. We really take a lot of abuse from the general public. It hurts the sport to the point where people get disgusted and they walk away. That can hurt the sport because we end up losing sponsors, and the sport becomes damaged.”

Davis-Thompson said that the recent revelations are crippling the sport, and she hopes that it stops before some serious damage is done. The 15th IAAF World Championships is two years from now, August 22-30, 2015, in Beijing, China.

“We are trying everything in our power to stamp out this drug culture,” she said. “A lot of our young athletes seem to want success, and they want it now. The sport requires a lot of hard work. Everything comes in due time and with hard work.”

Despite the many recent positive tests, Davis-Thompson said that about 98 percent of track and field athletes worldwide are clean. She said that it is the remaining two percent that is gradually killing the sport, and they in the IAAF must find a way to alleviate that, whether it be through stiffer penalties or by simply putting more stringent testing procedures in place.


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