There is undoubtedly no greater feeling than to see one’s country’s flag lifted high in the air and one’s country’s athletes’ faces beaming with pride at the opening ceremony, signalling that one’s arrival alone on the Olympic stage is a noteworthy achievement; or, an athlete from one’s country standing on the medal podium, one’s flag being hoisted and one’s national anthem played. These glorious moments send shivers down one’s spine, they give one goose-bumps and sometimes one cannot hold back the tears. There is a feeling of national pride and national accomplishment.
Be that as it may, the sad saga that played out in London with two of our most prominent athletes, Kim Collins and Tameka Williams, caused the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis national embarrassment on the world’s stage. We were featured in all the major newspapers and online news sites around the world, not for anything positive, but rather, for acts of shame, disgrace, conflict and disunity.
What happened in London, did not only tarnish the good name of two of our outstanding athletes, but it reflects badly on the country and our national athletic program. Up until the London Games, Kim Collins had enjoyed good international reputation as an athlete from the smallest nation in the Western Hemisphere, who had made us proud and brought us recognition, before he was made to pay for his “sins”. Collins athletic achievements include 1x World Championship gold medallist; 4x World Championship bronze medallist; 2x World Indoor Championships silver medallist; 1x Pan-Am Games silver medallist; 3x Olympic Games finalist; and 6x World Championships finalist.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Olympic Committee (SKNOC) was quick to point out Collins’s trangressions but was very mute about their own, almost making it appear as if they were infallible. What ensued in London had been festering for years. It was a battle of egos, a show of arrogance and a flexing of muscles. Lamentably, it was the country that lost when “dirty laundry was washed on the international stage.”
Make no mistake, Collins erred in his recalcitrant behaviour and it is inexcusable. One must be able to put one’s personal differences aside for a greater and noble good. Mr. Collins did not do that and it is pitiable.
The withdrawal of Collins’s accreditation hours before he was to run the 100 meters was regrettable and leaves one to wonder if it couldn’t have been handled differently. It only added fuel to an already angry fire after Tameka Williams was sent home for disclosing that she had taken “Blast off Red”, something used only by thoroughbreds, greyhounds and camels to enhance their performance. The question left unanswered is who administered the injectable vitamin supplements and amino acid compounds used only for animal consumption. Why days before the start of the Olympics are athletes asked to disclose any drugs, vitamins, supplements and the likes that they are taking? Shouldn’t athletes disclose that information way before they arrive for the Olympics? Shouldn’t we have in St. Kitts an Anti-Doping Sports Act and an Anti-Doping Commission with trained doping control officers similar to that of the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) where athletes are constantly monitored by in-competition and out of-competition drug testing? Maybe if we did, the Williams fiasco would not have played out in London.
Before London, Williams had enjoyed a good reputation on the tracks. She had a promising and bright future ahead of her as an international athlete. All of that is now shrouded in controversy and her name tarnished throughout the world for taking a substance she admitted to, even though she has not been tested negative. In people’s minds she is guilty before proven innocent and she would have a herculean task of repairing her image locally, regionally and internationally especially in a sport already dogged by performance enhancing drugs.
The 2012 London Olympics would be remembered for many things including: Usain Bolt of Jamaica defended his three Olympic titles (100m, 200m and 4x100m relay), something never done before; Michael Phelps emerged as the most decorated olympian of all time, amassing a total of 18 gold medals, two silver and two bronze; Kirani James of Grenada won the first Olympic gold medal for his country in the 400 metres and the first Olympic medal for the OECS; Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago won the first olympic gold in field events for his country, becoming the first non-European to win the men’s javelin since 1952 and giving Trinidad and Tobago only its second Olympic gold medal following Hasley Crawford’s victory in the men’s 100 m at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
But, for Kim Collins, the London Olympics and his last Olympics, will be remembered for his accreditation withdrawn and his exiting the international stage in disgrace. For Tameka Williams, the world will remember that she was kicked out of the Team SKN in London for using Blast off Red, a drug only used by animals. For the SKNOC, the London Olympics would be remembered for the souring of relationships and a lot left to be desired in athlete-management relations. And for many nationals, it is the outrage, the fingerpointing and the grappling to understand what took place in London.
However, Team SKN must be complimented for the tremendous effort that they made in the 4x 100 metres relay in London despite the odds and Antoine Adams must be complemented for making it to the semi-finals in the 200 and 100 metres.
There is still hope for us. Let us continue to support and encourage our athletes.