Last weekend, for the first time, Guyana hosted the Commonwealth Games Federation (GCF) Annual Americas Regional Conference. The well-organized two day event was held at the spanking new Guyana Olympic headquarters at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

The twenty-one member territories of the Americas Region of the GCF comprise Canada, Belize, the entire English-speaking Caribbean, from The Bahamas to Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, the Falkland Islands and St Helena ‒ the latter two located in the South Atlantic. The recent spate of hurricanes in the Caribbean led to the absence of representatives from Anguilla, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and the British Virgin Islands. The Falkland Islands were also unrepresented.

Local media duly reported the messages delivered by the acting President, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Minister of Social Cohesion with responsibility for Sport, Dr George Norton, and CGF President Louise Martin at the official opening. The speeches by the government representatives, of course, noted Guyana’s aspirations to become a force in the sporting world and promised government support for Guyana’s efforts. Minister Norton announced that one of his first acts will be to hire a recent graduate from UWI as a sports psychologist to work with Guyana’s sports men and women.

In addition, to workshops which covered among other topics the new governance structure of the GCF, there were presentations on Sunday from representatives of the XXI Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia from the 4th to 15th April, 2018, and the Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (RADO).

The presenters of the XXI Commonwealth Games (commonly referred to as Gold Coast 2018) report, Melissa Price and Crystal Pieris updated the delegates on the current status of the games. Their presentations were of the highest quality, and one wonders if the organisers of the second sports tourism workshop scheduled for early next month, ironically at the same venue, were in attendance and taking notes.

The Commonwealth Games Relations managers exuded professionalism at every turn. They enunciated in very clear voices, and they were very familiar with the material intended for the attendees. Accompanied by very appropriate and detailed slides and photographs, they covered every single aspect relevant to the games, ranging from staffing, the handing over of the games village, the assignment of local attaches to the visiting teams, departure and arrival dates, ports of entry, the pending disappointment about to be suffered by 32,000 of the 47,000 applicants for the 15,000 volunteer positions, transportation arrangements which will utilize a new format to previous events, the requirements for logo approvals for team uniforms, and the five day Chef de Mission conference scheduled for October.

The Gold Coast 2018 representatives emphasized the need for countries to respond by the set deadline dates for submission of team lists for participation in the Games’ twenty events which range from badminton to lawn bowls to mountain biking to rugby sevens to table tennis, for airline ticket subsidies ‒ yes, the ‘Friendly Games’ is providing travel assistance ‒ and for the most important area of Australian visa applications, which will require each individual competitor to provide his/her information via an online application which is linked to their country’s team list.

The latter subject generated hilarity from the audience, as the Grenadian representative lamented the fact that a lot of their athletes were based overseas and never responded to her emails, so she didn’t know how the Gold Coast 2018 team was  going to get answers out of them. Price replied that was not a unique Caribbean problem and that they were even experiencing difficulties with getting Chef de Missions to respond to deadlines!

Sasha Sutherland, Executive Director of the Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (RADO) was the next presenter, and her very important presentation seems to have disappeared under the radar of the media.

RADO, which is linked to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has its headquarters in Barbados and its jurisdiction covers eighteen countries in the Caribbean, extending from The Bahamas to Guyana and Suriname.

Sutherland’s informative talk covered the staffing of RADO ‒ doctors, testers and education officers, test refusals by sportsmen/women, tampering, and the unknown whereabouts of competitors when sought for testing. The RADO executive explained in great detail the protocol for the taking of urine samples and the importance of the subject of the test being accompanied by his/her representative during the test, and the procedures to be followed to ensure that the samples are secure and tamper proofed.

The problems faced by competitors with genuine medical ailments who have to receive permission from RADO to take medication under supervision, and statistics provided for 2016 and 2017 to date, included the number of tests done, violations, refusals and positive findings. Mention was also made of the fact that prominent Caribbean sporting figures Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle were among the most tested sportsmen of recent times.

RADO has even started reaching out to the next generation, and in keeping with this year’s theme of “Be You, Play True,” has begun educating primary schools kids, with the emphasis on playing fair as the basis for the starting point of their programme.

The role of RADO in the future development of sport in the Caribbean and here in Guyana is of absolute importance and must be embraced with open arms. One of our cyclists is currently serving a four year suspension for a positive drug test, and it should serve as a warning to all our aspiring men and women who want to participate in sport at the highest levels.

At present national athletes are required to sign ‘Whereabouts’ indicating where they can be found during the hours of 5 am and 11 pm for testing. Local sports bodies need to follow RADO’s lead and put in place a continuous annual programme to teach the next generation of our kids to be honest in their sport activities.

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