By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published on July 18, 2016
Jason ‘Dadz’ Morgan has been left off the Jamaican 2016 Olympic Team and has threatened to take the JAAA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Ten months ago, on September 16, 2015, I sat in the studio of an ESPN-affiliate radio station and listened attentively to Ludlow Watts, treasurer of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), list out, in a macroeconomic fashion, the assistance the JAAA has provided to Jamaican athletes over the years. This seemingly forced exercise, at the time, was brought about by outcries from a coterie of Jamaican athletes after the 2015 Beijing World Championships. All the talk seemingly shifted away from Jamaica’s successful second place in the medal table or their third place in the point standings. The scoops and bulletins all converged on the lamentations of the caucus of athletes who shared heart-wrenching stories and listed examples of the type of tangible support they, and others, would need going forward. The emotional lamenter of the group was Jason “Dadz” Morgan, Jamaica’s national record holder in the discus throw.
The lack of support Morgan and others mentioned was not necessarily from the JAAA but from corporate Jamaica and the country in general. Some local track and field fans jeered the tear-jerking and tear-flowing outcries from Morgan and the other athletes. However, the government did not share those sentiments and the Sports Minister, at the time, the Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley assured the athletes that they would be given assistance via monthly stipends and health insurance plans leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics. This stately assurance from the Sports Minister occurred a week before I witnessed that on-air clear-the-air sit-down with Mr. Watts in the studio that Wednesday afternoon. With the 2016 Olympics, now, a mere 18 days away, some local track and field fans have now joined Morgan in making another outcry, albeit, in a totally different manner.
Last week Monday, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) named a 63-member strong team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Morgan’s name excluded from the 59 track and field athletes submitted to them by the JAAA. Upon realizing the travesty, Morgan declared, “I am not worried. I believe they just overlooked my name. And there is no reason for me to not be on that team.” Interestingly, several track and field fans agree and so do I.
Morgan placed fourth at the JAAA National Senior Championships behind national champion and sole discus thrower on the provisional Olympic list, Fedrick Dacres. Both men have attained the qualifying throw during the Olympic qualifying period of 1 May 2015 to 11 July 2016. With the second and third placed individuals not having the Olympic qualifying throw of beyond 65 metres and though Morgan has the qualifying mark, his fourth place showing, outside of the first three automatic spots with the qualifying standards obtained, left him open to the discretion of the JAAA. The JAAA declined to offer him a spot on the Olympic team. However, the JAAA seems to have exercised their discretion in a seemingly biased manner when compared to other athletes.
Long jumper Aubrey Smith has met the Olympic qualifying standard of 8.15m, having jumped 8.16m a week before the trials, in Florida, USA. At the trials, Smith placed seventh with a jump of 7.40m. Yet Smith was included alongside national champion Demar Forbes, seeing that both men were the only one’s in that field who have attained the Olympic qualifying standard.
In another example, Jamaican 400m record holder, Rusheen McDonald placed fourth at the trials behind national champion Javon Francis, Fitzroy Dunkley and Nathon Allen. McDonald, however, is on the Olympic team and will be placed ahead of Allen, who doesn’t have the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.40 between 1 May 2015 and 11 July 2016 for the individual event. Why has the JAAA extended these discretions to Smith and McDonald but not to Morgan?
It appears that Morgan’s past lamentations and/or pettifoggeries with the JAAA have been used to axe him from the Olympic team. This may not be true, but the perception is more perspicuous than the fact.
JAAA President Dr. Warren Blake tried to justify the omission recently with some seemingly belittling comments about Morgan’s season-best performances and his underperformances at major championships throughout the years.
Blake pointed out, “The history with Morgan is that he only throws the qualifying standard at a particular meet early in the season and he never repeats this, so it was the view of the selection committee that he shouldn’t be included.”
Unfortunately, this is false. His season-best throws have come at seven different locations over the past 12 seasons. In addition, his season-best throws have come at four different locations in the past five seasons. Truthfully, Morgan has produced his season-best throw five times in Monroe, Louisiana. However, that’s hardly surprising because that’s where he first held claim to the Jamaica national record as a college student.
Table 1. Jason Morgan’s Season’s Best Discus Throws
|2016||63.11||Jim Mize Invitational||Ruston, LA||19-Mar|
|2015||68.19||Peak Performance Track Classic||Pearl, MS||6-Jun|
|2014||64.72||Southern Miss Black & Gold Invitational||Hattiesburg, MS||3-May|
|2013||65.94||Jim Mize Invitational||Ruston, LA||16-Mar|
|2012||67.15||Peak Performance Track Invitational||Monroe, LA||12-May|
|2011||64.11||Peak Performance Track Classic||Monroe, LA||28-May|
|2010||60.95||Monroe Warhawk Classic||Monroe, LA||24-Apr|
|2009||59.37||Monroe Warhawk Classic||Monroe, LA||25-Apr|
|2008||60.14||Reebok Grand Prix||New York City (Icahn), NY||31-May|
|2007||62.95||Monroe Warhawk Classic||Monroe, LA||28-Apr|
|2006||57.49||NCAA Mideast Regional Championships||Knoxville, TN||26-May|
|2005||53.23||Penn Relays||Philadelphia, PA||29-Apr|
Individuals have been whispering about the credibility of his performances at these meets. However, I don’t see anyone questioning the credibility of other IAAF ratified meets at Rieti, in Italy, or at Eugene in the USA and other places where athletes normally run fast times, especially personal or season-bests. Maybe Morgan just throws well and feels more at home in and around Louisiana, where he went to college. They always say “there’s no place like home” and that’s ‘his home’ of sorts.
Morgan had the second-best throw in the world last year with 68.19m and consequently, the second-best over the 14-and-half-month Olympic qualifying period, 1 May 2015 to 11 July 2016. Morgan achieved this without a coach, sponsors, the financial excesses to be able to travel to the big meets in Europe and elsewhere, and long before the government started helping the athletes after his and their pleas. He has worked hard on and off the field to get where he is and has lost several of his jobs because he is representing Jamaica. Why are his own Jamaicans casting aspersions and denying him another opportunity to represent his country though having the qualifying mark? Is it because he seemingly placed the JAAA inadvertently on the hotseat last year or unwittingly showed them up? Let bygones be bygones. Free up ‘Dadz’ Morgan and avoid court. If they do not, then their decision smacks of bias.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a freelance sportswriter who in high school once threw a discus and realized that he would be more successful at running the 100m and 200m.
This blog article is from the “Lies & Statistics” column in the Western Mirror (Published July 18, 2016)