By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published February 6, 2017
Jamaicans have been polarised on the IOC’s decision to disqualify Nesta Carter and inadvertently Jamaica’s 4x 100m team eight years after the 2008 Olympics. Though disappointing, the decision may be correct.
Two weeks ago, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced that Jamaica’s Nesta Carter’s performances at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were disqualified due to his 2008 Olympics samples returning a positive test for the prohibited substance methylhexaneamine – upon re-analysis.
In addition to that, the IOC declared that Jamaica’s men’s 4 x100m relay team, which Carter was a part of, was disqualified from the relay event and that the members of the team must return their gold medals, medallist pins, and diplomas obtain, after the then-world record run.
Several individuals locally have expressed outrage over the decision, with many lamenting the vanquishing of Usain Bolt’s “triple treble” crown as a result of the IOC’s decision. Quite a few individuals have missed the ‘alternative fact’ that Bolt is not the only one who will lose a gold medal, but also Michael Frater, Asafa Powell, and Dwight Thomas, all Carter’s teammates on that relay team.
Jamaica’s track and field conspiracy theorists have postulated that the IOC’s decision is a witch-hunt, which is attempting to snare the illustrious Bolt and to varnish his whitened career. I will not entertain such conspiracies until irrefutable proof has been tendered. Similarly, members of Jamaica’s convenient anti-doping public have been strident with their condemnation of the IOC’s decision. With many declaring that the decision to test samples up to eight years after an event has occurred is unfair and inconsistent with past decisions.
For crimes such as murder, in some jurisdictions, there are no statutes of limitations. In other jurisdictions, however, there are statutes of limitations for other crimes, such as rape, robbery, etc. As with life, laws change. In Olympic sports, presently, the statute of limitations for re-testing is eight years. The athletes themselves asked for such measures to level out the performances on the track and on the field against athletes who dope, and WADA and the IOC responded to their calls.
We, Jamaicans, have supported and celebrated the results of these decisions in the past when it caught our rivals and increased our medal tallies. Now we are against because it has caught one of our own and has reduced our gold medal tally. Such hypocrisy!
As a chemist by profession and training, I for one, have no qualms with the IOC’s decision and think it is fair and consistent with past incidents involving methylhexaneamine and/or Jamaican athletes.
In 2009, prior to methylhexaneamine being explicitly mentioned in the stimulants section of the WADA list, five of Jamaica’s athletes returned samples with positive results for the presence of the methylhexaneamine stimulant. Yohan Blake and one of my former classmates were among the five, and four of the five received three-month bans. Like many Jamaicans today, at the time, I was befuddled as to why the athletes were convicted on JADCO’s appeal after initially being cleared because as stated in the initial ruling, the stimulant was not on WADA’s banned list.
I could not understand it! Methylhexaneamine was not on the list, but they were banned for it. I was unrepentantly outraged until I pounced upon WADA’s open-end clause or ‘smoking gun’ with regards stated prohibitive substances and their shirttail derivatives, which are often the compounds athletes take to get an edge while trying to avoid WADA’s testing tentacles.
WADA’s prohibited list states some important info at the beginning and the end of almost every section for the itemised banned substances, which include anabolic steroids, masking agents and stimulants. It says that the substances prohibited are “not limited to” those stated and that prohibition extends to “other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s).”
Methylhexaneamine was not explicitly stated in WADA’s 2008-banned list and this is the cry of many Jamaicans and journalists without an extensive chemistry background. Nevertheless, methylhexaneamine is a chain isomer and a member of the same homologous series of the 2008 specified banned substance tuaminoheptane. In other words, methylhexaneamine has a similar chemical structure, similar chemical properties, and/or similar biological effects to the prohibited tuaminoheptane. In Jamaican patois, we say “Dey fava each oda, a members of de siem fambily, an du similar tings.” As such, based on WADA’s code, Carter’s disqualification is justified and is a non-issue.
Does this mean that in the future every athlete will need to do a degree in chemistry and/or have a chemist on staff to avoid transgressions like this? Maybe! Numerous athletes have been relying on the advice of their coaches and other members of their staff who are not medical, chemical or pharmaceutical experts in order to determine which supplements to take. WADA, though, has placed full responsibility on the athlete’s shoulders, for all substances found inside of their bodies. I would suggest to athletes worldwide, and especially those in Jamaica, to get hold of the experts, stop taking supplements, eat healthy foods include grandma’s yam and coco and let the results fall into place.
The ‘alternative facts’ are there to see. Just ask Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Marvin Anderson, Allodin Fothergill, and Lansford Spence, who have all been banned in the past eight years.
Based on my beliefs and the facts, or the ‘alternative facts’ before me, does this mean that Carter should not appeal the decision? Of course, he should appeal it. Who to tell, maybe like Veronica Campbell, due to miraculous, legal and/or divine intervention, he could get the decision thrown out on appeal. Certainly, then, Carter and the entire Jamaica including his teammates would exuberantly sprint a sigh of relief.
Nevertheless, for now, I await to see how the appeal begins as Carter, Jamaica’s relay starter, gets his legal team ready.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a multi-award-winning freelance sportswriter and a former 100m and 200m sprinter. He is guilty of taking WADA banned stimulants to stay awake in his chemistry and applied chemistry university classes. Sadly, the stimulants never enhanced his performances on his college exams.
Zaheer’s articles have been published by ESPN Cricinfo, The Western Mirror, The Jamaica Observer, The Jamaica Gleaner, Trinidad Express, Essentially Sports and many others.
This blog article was published in the Western Mirror on February 6, 2017.