Veteran sprinter Steve Mullings, who has been under intense media and public scrutiny, got word from the disciplinary hearing panel that it has granted the request to reschedule his hearing for October 19 and 20. This at the request of the athlete’s lawyers, who will be able to have their full slate of experts and witnesses prepared, and allows ample time for a re-test of his ‘B’ urinalysis sample. The body, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO), will investigate the presence of the diuretic Furosemide in Mullings’ system, discovered during the Jamaica track and field trials in June.
This is the second time that Mr. Mullings will face an arbitration panel, having stood before a similar one back in 2004, during his collegiate years. Subsequently, he was thrown off the 2004 Olympic team and banned from the sport for two years. He returned to competition in 2006 and has spent the last five years rebuilding his career and reputation. In the process, he became one of the ten fastest men of all time, and placed fourth on the Jamaican all-time list behind Usain Bolt (9.58 world record), Asafa Powell (9.72secs) and Nesta Carter (9.78). His best times are 9.80 over 100m and 19.98 over 200m.
Jamaicans were rabid in support of Mullings’ return to the top of his game this year, and touted his coup of three IAAF Diamond League events, culminating in a huge 100m win over American sprint star Tyson Gay in New York and making the Jamaican team to the 13th World Championships, in Daegu, South Korea this week.
Ironically, just a few weeks before this latest drug allegation, Mullings, the sixth fastest man ever, spoke candidly about his history and the 2004 occurrence. He insisted he was clean then, but was unable to fight the case then because of a lack of funds. He stated that continuing to work hard and believing in himself, would bring good results. He acknowledged that he would not be able to convince some people that he was innocent back in ’04, but he was intent on continuing to stay on the right track.
However, one fantastic season in 2011 has come crashing down like a ton of bricks. His ‘A’ urinalysis sample taken at Trials revealed the presence of a banned stimulant. Just to be clear, one sample of urinalysis is usually taken from an athlete but that sample is then shared into two parts, and labeled ‘A’ and ‘B.’ Sample ‘A’ is the first to be tested and if it presents traces of illegal substances, the athlete is notified and he or she may request to have sample ‘B’ tested, just to be sure. In Mullings’ case, unofficially, it is said that the prohibited substance found may have been medically prescribed to repel dangerous asthma attacks, which significantly affected him during the gloomy, cold and damp conditions in New York, just after his victorious run against his training partner, Gay.
The essence of jurisprudence is that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but judging by the commentary of Jamaicans in various media, Mr. Mullings’ guilt is all but assured. Worse yet, they not so subtly claim that he is a victim of American treachery and that he should have returned to train in Jamaica instead of doing so in the US. Some Jamaicans in and out of the social media have even taken the ignorance further, suggesting that any athlete who wants to represent Jamaica should be required to live in the country for at least two years prior to their selection. This is totally absurd and beyond ridiculous. Others have said if he trains with the Americans we should not be surprised. As a long-time track and field fan I am disappointed although not entirely surprised by this inane behavior. Oh, that’s how we roll.
The suggestion that if he had trained in Jamaica he might not have suffered the same setback is without merit. One recalls that a significant number of Jamaican athletes have tested positive for performance enhancers over time. Just about a year ago, five Jamaican athletes, majority of whom lived and trained in Jamaica, tested positive for banned substances. These types of incidences occur all over the world from time to time. I am not in any way condoning the use of banned stimulants, but Jamaicans need to be a little less self-serving; a less ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude is appropriate here.
Clearly, Mr. Mullings and those who suffer a similar fate should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be vilified at will. For starters, the athlete received a grave injustice from the agency entrusted with administering drug testing in Jamaica, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO). Clearly JADCO did not honor the merit of its own tenet, because how then does it explain why certain media houses were in possession of such confidential matters, including the athlete’s likeness, which was enough to ascertain Mr. Mullings’ identity? Who made the results ‘final’ before they became official? I doubt answers will be forthcoming; hence, any reasonable person must conclude that this body cannot be trusted. Therefore by extension, everyone on the JADCO board must be viewed suspiciously and held accountable. One bad apple does spoil the whole bunch.
I was at the New York meet in June when Steve Mullings was the darling of Jamaicans for exacting a bit of revenge over the mighty Gay, who scored a memorable win over their beloved Bolt a year before, and with whom Powell has a close head-to-head. But now, Mullings, the two-time National 200m champion, finds that it was probably a love of convenience, as someone aptly reasoned. Some of the same supporters have elected to throw him under the proverbial bus without the benefit of due process.
The Right Thing
We ought to fall behind this seemingly gentle man and his family and give them our wholehearted support in this turbulent time. That is about doing what is right. The world needs far less fair-weather friends.
We have huge celebrations when our athletes do well internationally but we do not truly love them. Maybe we are incapable of that emotion, which is pathetic. I hope Steve Mullings notices. He and his handlers have been fairly mum on the subject which suggests that he is following correct legal counsel. This young man seems poised and disciplined and he should be given the benefit of the doubt until all of the chips are laid out on the table. And if he is found to have infringed the rules, he should be bound by the confines of the law; he must not be made an example of it.
Finally, a word to the athlete: You have true fans who wish you well as you go onward. We look forward to hearing your side of the story at an appropriate time and place. And as a universal citizen, you are free to live and train anywhere in the world you choose. It does not have to be in Jamaica. Smart Jamaican fans know this and are willing to give you the moral support that this time demands. Hold your head high and continue to behave exemplary.