PtG Article 06.05.2014

Doping Paradise – How Jamaica became the Wild West of Doping

With outset in recent doping scandals in Jamaica, senior researcher at the Asser International Sports Law Centre Antoine Duval looks at the consequences of having different degrees of anti-doping regulations in different countries.

Since the landing on the sporting earth of the Übermensch, aka Usain Bolt, Jamaica has been at the centre of doping-related suspicions. Recently, it has been fueling those suspicions with its home-made scandal around the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). The former executive of JADCO, Renee Anne Shirley, heavily criticized its functioning in August 2013, and Jamaica has been since then in the eye of the doping cyclone.

In light of the reluctance of Jamaica to remedy the failures of JADCO, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ordered a formal review of the anti-doping practices on the island. In case of a negative report, WADA would have declared Jamaica non-compliant, this would in turn trigger sanctions by Sport Governing Bodies, in extreme cases even a full ban from major international events (Olympic Games or World Cups).

In order to avoid such a dire fate the sporting Minister of Jamaica and the head of WADA met on November 2013 and a reform plan for the Jamaican anti-doping organisations was agreed. The minister accepted to undertake a legislative review of anti-doping law in Jamaica and to evaluate JADCO’s governance and management structure. Furthermore, the Jamaican government allocated new funds to the fight against doping. In short, JADCO is being restructured, this is very much a work in progress, but WADA is strongly backing the reforms so far.

Furthermore, in 2013, Jamaican track and field athletes have been hit by a strange string of positive doping cases: Asafa PowellSherone SimpsonVeronique Campbell-BrownAllison Randall,  Damar Robinson, and (in 2012) Dominique Blake. All those cases lead to sporting bans of various lengths by Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association’s (JAAA) Disciplinary Panel.

However, even the Jamaican doping justice is scrambling, the probity of some judges have been doubted and calls to reverse the bans in the cases of Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson have been heard. Anyhow, the cases will probably end up in front of CAS.

Before CAS, the weaknesses of the Jamaican anti-doping system became overt in the Campbell-Brown case. Indeed, in that case, the JADCO acknowledged that it had been, as a matter of policy choice, constantly ignoring the WADA International Standards for Testing. Thus, CAS was prompt to assert that “systematic and knowing failure, for which no reasonable explanation has been advanced, is deplorable and gives rise to the most serious concerns about the overall integrity of the JAAA’s anti-doping processes, as exemplified in this case by the flaws in JADCO’s sample collection and its documentation” (§182).

Consequently, the ban on Veronique Campbell-Brown was lifted. Additionally, in a recent decision (2 May 2014) in the Dominique Blake case, CAS reduced the 6-year ban to 4,5 years because, among other reasons, “she was provided with barely any anti-doping education” and “she has only had one previous experience with doping control (when she was 19 years-old)”.

What kind of lessons does the fiasco of the anti-doping system in Jamaica holds for the whole World Anti-Doping edifice? Well, first, that the local level matters a lot. Indeed, if local authorities are inefficient and/or unwilling to address the various dimensions (education, compliance, enforcement) of the anti-doping fight, the WADA and its rules lose relevance. This might engender loopholes in the global anti-doping regime, thus creating discrepancies between athletes.

Indeed, some might be very strictly monitored due to their residence being in a complying country, while others will systematically escape any control or punishment due to insufficient procedural standards. Hence, for the WADA Regime to be successful in reining in doping and ensuring a level playing field for athletes, WADA must urgently warrant that enforcement asymmetries are avoided.


This comment was first published on the Asser International Sports Law blog and is republished at with kind permission from the author.