WITH THE Tokyo Olympics a few months away, this country’s dream of securing ten gold medals by 2024 is now facing major hurdles because of two not unrelated developments. Firstly, some of our cyclists suffered a setback on Boxing Day when they were stripped of their Pan American Games medals on the basis of doping violations. And secondly, one of our most talented sprinters, Michelle-Lee Ahye, was on Tuesday slapped with a two-year ban for missing drug testing.
These are sad and distressing developments, casting a shadow over what should be our athletes’ time to shine. Though they involve specific individuals, they cast a pall over the efforts of the entire Olympic delegation and for this reason must be properly investigated and, where applicable, challenged.
The developments in cycling are subject to legal appeals and it may well be that our boys will be vindicated. But damage has already been done. In the wake of the doping findings, two cyclists were notably missing from planned delegations for two upcoming international competitions. Both had also withdrawn from all pre-Tokyo 2020 Olympic training and qualifier events, citing the impossibility of qualifying.
Whether they were right to do so, it will now be harder for the remaining cyclists. Still, one of them has a promising chance of doing well having already set a world record. Sadly, anything the team now achieves will be viewed with suspicion.
Though the findings against Ahye raise many questions, they nonetheless represent a major disappointment for the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist. The incidents detailed in the International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) ruling merit careful study. With reputations at stake, the standard expected of both sides is high.
In this regard, it is worth noting that of three incidents cited, one was due to an “administrative muddle” that was no fault of Ahye’s. Had she been targeted? She apologised for a previous incident. In relation to the third incident, there is troubling uncertainty – though not on the part of AIU officials – over whether she could have done more to facilitate a visiting officer at her home.
It is said she had indicated willingness to be tested at a particular time and date yet there was no answer. Why would someone indicate they are available at a specific time then blank the call? We hold no brief for anyone guilty of doping. We condemn drug cheating in sports. But for the sake of the team, we hope these matters are soon clarified.
Meanwhile, the efforts of people such as Abigail Vieira, who made history this month by being the first person from this country to compete at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, continue to demonstrate our ability to defy the odds. Let’s hope that will still be the case in Tokyo 2020.