Editorial

Happy for Ms Williams, but clarity needed, JAAA

Saturday, August 17, 2019

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The headline 'Hallelujah!' on Friday's back page of the Jamaica Observer perhaps summed up best the feelings of most Jamaican track and field followers regarding reprieve for celebrated hurdler Miss Danielle Williams.

Miss Williams captured the hearts of Jamaicans in 2015 when, against all odds, she won the 100m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

Back then she was reclaiming for Jamaica, a title won by the admirable Mrs Bridgette Foster-Hylton back in 2009.

But everything went downhill for Miss Williams at Jamaica's National Championships (athletic trials) at the National Stadium in June — an event crucial to selection of the national track and field team for the IAAF World Championships in Doha, next month.

Miss Williams was adjudged to have false started in the final of the 100m hurdles and was disqualified. This was followed by a chaotic chain of events which led to the race being called off.

In the aftermath of that evening, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) ruled that there would be no re-run of the event and that Miss Williams was ineligible for selection to Doha.

All the circumstances left many in track and field circles extremely uneasy.

The fact that Miss Williams was enjoying a superlative season on the professional circuit clearly meant there was additional pressure on the JAAA to reverse its decision.

We learnt in recent weeks that even without being selected by the JAAA, Miss Williams could earn a place at the prestigious event in Doha should she win the athletics Diamond League which ends in Brussels, Belgium on September 6.

With all of that, the local authorities seemed determined to stand their ground that they had acted within the rules by disqualifying Miss Williams. The suggestion was that the three hurdlers from the seven remaining after Miss Williams's disqualification would be selected for Doha based on performance.

That was until Friday, when a news release from the JAAA revealed that they had completely reversed themselves.

According to the release, the JAAA “announced that following international expert advice and a review of the selection policy, the association said that the fairest way to proceed is for the JAAA to make its selection decision based on the multiple criteria listed in published policy. Although the specific case is not”.

We don't pretend to understand that statement.

The JAAA release also said that “The 100m sprint hurdle race at the National Championship had been ruled null and void and Ms Williams's disqualification could, therefore, not stand given that the race was never completed and has been declared null and void.”

There is also a reference in the release that the JAAA's “main consideration was fairness to all athletes and compliance with both JAAA and IAAF rules”.

It sounds to this newspaper that more explanations are needed.

JAAA head Dr Warren Blake and his team would be well advised to call a press conference and clear the air entirely.

Happy as we all are for Miss Williams, clarity is crucial.


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