Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Editorial | JAAA, good sense and justice

Published:Thursday | June 20, 2024 | 12:49 AM
Tyquendo Tracey competes in the men’s 100m semifinals in the  2019 IAAF World Athletic Championships, held at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, September 28, 2019.
Tyquendo Tracey competes in the men’s 100m semifinals in the 2019 IAAF World Athletic Championships, held at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, September 28, 2019.
Maurice Wilson
Maurice Wilson
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If good sense prevails in the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), the governing body of track and field athletics in Jamaica, they will suspend next week’s hearing of the case against Tyquendo Tracey and resume the matter after the Olympic Games.

All the precepts of justice, fair play, and more importantly, sheer decency, demand such an action.

If the JAAA does not voluntarily acquiesce to a delay of the trial, Mr Tracey and his legal advisers should seek an injunction from the Supreme Court to halt the action and for the athlete to run unfettered in Jamaica’s Olympic trials, notwithstanding the likely argument that the domestic courts have no standing in this matter. That assumption should be tested.

To be clear, this newspaper holds no brief for Mr Tracey. Neither are we in a position to judge, as is argued by the JAAA, whether he breached the association’s code of behaviour and brought the sport into disrepute by his conduct at last year’s World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, although we might have counselled him to another response to the events in Budapest .

We, however, believe firmly in Lord Chief Justice Hewart’s maxim, pronounced 100 years ago, that ‘justice must not only be done, but manifestly seen to be done’. When this tenet is not upheld, the rule of law is undermined and democracy is weakened.

In those circumstances, there are two potentially dangerous paths upon which societies can be set: the rise of authoritarianism or anarchy.

DISCIPLINARY CASE

Mr Tracey, 31, is primarily a 100-metre runner who has twice been Jamaica’s national champion in the event. Some might claim that his best days are behind him, since his peak in 2018 when he ran 9.96 and 9.98 seconds at the Anniversary Games at the London Olympics Stadium. These days he is mostly a 10 seconds-plus man. Which is besides the point.

Last year, at Jamaica’s athletics championships, which served as the trial for the Budapest games, Mr Tracey came fifth in his event. He was not an entry for the 100 metres at the World Championships. Jamaica’s rules is that the first three in an event at its trials are the automatic entries.

Nonetheless, Mr Tracey was part of Jamaica’s contingent to the World Championships, where he expected to be part of the relay team, perhaps running in the early rounds.

He was, however, overlooked for the relay. A young, promising athlete who had recently shown good form was chosen for the squad.

Mr Tracey, while still in the camp, went on social media to complain about his exclusion and claimed that the selected runner was let into the national team and leapfrogged other athletes, primarily because his coach, Maurice Wilson, a highly respected sports administrator, was the head coach of Jamaica’s team. Mr Wilson threatened to sue for defamation.

All that happened 10 months ago.

It is not known if Mr Wilson has pursued the defamation suit. But on June 5, the JAAA informed Mr Tracey that a disciplinary case was opened against him , with a hearing for June 15. That would have been 12 days before the start of the three-day trials to select Jamaica’s team for the Paris Olympics.

Mr Tracey’s lawyers argued that he had not been given the documents/information on which the JAAA will rely for its complaints. So, the hearing is now set for June 25, two days before the start of the trials.

SIGNIFICANT ISSUES

If Mr Tracey is found guilty of the offences he can receive a reprimand, be fined, or suspended from athletics for a period.

Two significant issues, which go to fairness, arise in this matter. The first has to do with the length of time it took the JAAA to bring the charges against Mr Tracey. The athletics body will perhaps argue that it needed to complete its investigations, including the collection of statements, before it acted. True!

However, 10 months seems an inordinately long time to investigate what, on its face, is a relatively straightforward case.

Second, the JAAA will find it hard to overcome public suspicion of the timing of the hearing. Ten days before the start of the national athletics trials was scandalous. Two days is a mockery.

Indeed, the JAAA cannot escape the perception that the hearing was timed to lessen, if not totally remove, any opportunity for Mr Tracey to participate in the trials and, therefore, make the team to the Olympics.

It is possible that the hearing could still be taking place on the opening day of trial. So, even if Mr Tracey is vindicated, the window for him to run will be extremely narrow.

Should he be found guilty and appeals the finding, a review will happen long past the trial, and even the Olympics.

In that 1923 case of The King v Sussex Justices – ex parte McCarthy, Lord Chief Justice Hewart said: “... It is not merely of some importance but of fundamental importance that justice should be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

“... Nothing is to be done which creates even a suspicion that there has been an improper interference with the cause of justice.”

That goes not only for the courts.