Our Readers' Opinions
June 23, 2017
The State of the Athletics Association – Part 2

Poor leadership and discrimination against athletes

by Luke Browne

I continue today with my commentary on Keith Joseph’s generally poor leadership of the Athletics Association (which also calls itself Team Athletics) and the specific matter of discrimination against athletes.

I mentioned in a previous article (two weeks ago) that three talented Vincentians were unfairly robbed of an opportunity to represent this country at the recently concluded CARIFTA Games. Since then, information came to hand which confirmed that this kind of discrimination was not an isolated incident, but rather a matter of general practice.

I learnt that the reigning Junior Champ and Victor Ludorum from Inter-School Sports was originally left out of the SVG team to the Whitsuntide Games, which were held in Grenada on June 3-4. The rising track star was only included in the squad after public protests by his coach. The young man went on to win gold medals in both the 100m and 200m races at the Games. In other words, he was going to be cheated out of an opportunity to win two regional gold medals if no one said anything or did anything.

The father of our Victor Ludorum was so hurt by the turn of events that he called in to a radio programme a couple days ago to express his anger and frustration. He said that his son was discouraged, disillusioned and was even thinking about giving up on sports. He thanked God that in the end his champion boy was able to pick himself up, go to the Games, prove himself and in the process give the Athletics Association a hard slap in its face. He openly wondered how many athletes out there, who unlike his son, did not have someone to speak up for them, and as a result had to suffer in silence and watch their hopes of an athletics career go down the drain. The father’s call to the radio programme was followed by an outpouring of support and solidarity from coaches and concerned citizens who unanimously denounced the actions of the Athletics Association. We could have a Usain Bolt or a Kirani James in the making. We must nurture this type of talent, and not stifle, or kill it.

This is a serious and major national issue which affects the sporting development of SVG. It absolutely transcends Keith Joseph and his minions. We are talking here about a potential breach of international treaties, which say that an individual has the right to be able to fully develop his or her personality, ability and talent without discrimination. The Athletics Association has therefore exposed itself to legal action.

Plainly speaking, Team Athletics cannot be allowed to hold an entire country’s vision of track and field grandeur ransom to its plots and schemes. The spirit of athleticism in this country must by no means be held hostage by a group of people who are dead set against promoting its best interests. No one should be allowed to suppress our talent for any reason whatsoever. We must fearlessly, relentlessly and steadfastly pursue a fairer and much more transparent selection regime.

I know several members of the Athletics Association Selection Committee. They are persons of integrity and a passion for sports. I would like to know if they are prepared to publicly defend their recent selection decisions. Do they sit well with your conscience? What is the selection procedure? Is it a case where you are being overruled by the president? It is the patriotic duty of selectors to resign from their posts if they feel that there is undue interference with the performance of their duties, or if they fundamentally disagree with the policies and practices of the Association, especially as they relate to matters within their portfolio. There is a Biblical injunction from the Book of 2 Corinthians that might be most apt – “come out from among them and be ye separate.”

The Athletics Association is not only guilty of discriminating against our athletes. There are serious and grievous matters of governance and administration that also fall to its charge. Next time, I will deal with breaches of the Association’s Constitution, the lack of annual general meetings, electoral irregularities, non-compliance with accountability requirements and in general, the conduct of the organization’s affairs in a manner contrary to its constitution, rules and regulations. Keith Joseph is behaving as if the Athletics Association is his personal ‘mauby shop’, and that must stop.

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