President of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) Brian Lewis says he is convinced that cyclist Gene Samuel and 400 metre specialist Ian Morris could have secured Olympics medals for this country if more radical systems for the testing of athletes were developed during the earlier years of the Games.
Samuel mounted the bike to pedal for T&T at four Olympic Games - 1984 Los Angeles, USA, 1988 Seoul, Korea, 1992 Barcelona, Spain and 1996 Atlanta, USA. Morris represented this country in 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Speaking to T&T Guardian the TTOC head said while cheating and doping in sport had always been a reality, the latest developments in Rio were heartening as they placed a necessary spotlight on dishonest athletes.
New and advanced methods for testing and re-testing, said Lewis, offered fresh hope for exposing doping and doping programmes that couldn’t be identified previously.
Commenting on national athletes who lost out to medals because of drug cheats at the time, who were later discovered, shamed and stripped of their medals, the TTOC president said T&T sportsmen and sportswomen were denied benefits despite their eventual elevation.
“You didn’t have the benefit at the time to stand on the podium, to receive your medal and receive the accolades. In some cases you would have lost the opportunity to earn high contracts and appearance fees from the various competitions and meets.
“Eight years or so later, or four years later, to me is not a benefit. You could never recoup, you could never repay an athlete for being denied the opportunity to stand on the podium and to see their country’s flag raised or if you finished second or third, to hear your national anthem played. So I think it is very important what is happening.”
He said it was no secret that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had come under intense scrutiny for decisions made, based on the facts laid before them. Because of that pressure on the IOC in Rio, said Lewis the spotlight was magnified to seek out drug cheats as well as countries that might have been tagged for having a culture of systematic doping.
As unpleasant and uncomfortable as it might be, he believed this development was good for drug-free athletes.
“All of our top athletes are tested. The TTOC in the absence of an anti-doping organisation with the absence of a NADO (National Anti-doping Organisation) with the support of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs run a number of out of competition test and we tend to be very rigorous. From time-to-time athletes will transgress, but in the main T&T has a culture of clean sports. Long may that continue! What we have to do is to ensure that we support the athletes as much as possible,” Lewis said.
“So, I am very glad and extremely encouraged and heartened that the spotlight, as unpleasant as it is, is shinning on doping. I think the IOC can’t duck the responsibility as unpleasant as it may be. I think that maybe in hindsight there are some things that they would think that they would do differently, but then again there were decisions that the TTOC and I would have made in the last couple months that people would have felt we could have done differently. At the end of the day you have to make decisions on the totality of facts before you.”