Commentary: Another dark cloud over Cayman Islands athletics

Cayman's athletes at the CARIFTA 2019 opening ceremony

The news was delivered to Cayman Islands Athletic Association (CIAA) members in a three-paragraph letter from President Lance Barnes on 25 July. The Cayman Islands was being sanctioned by NACAC, the North American Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association. Simply put, Cayman’s promising track and field stars are being punished not through their doing but from the actions or inactions of others.

Sound familiar? That’s because this sort of thing happens too often. We’ll get to that in a bit but let’s first focus on the letter and what triggered it.

“The sanction levelled against the association is in respect to refunds made by the CARIFTA 2019 LOC [Local Organising Committee] for added charges made to member federations that contravened NACAC standing policy,” Barnes’ letter stated.

“The sanction prevents any athlete from the Cayman Islands from participating in any NACAC and World Athletics athletic event including the Olympics.”

This stems from approximately US$50,000 in overcharges to delegations that travelled to Cayman for the 2019 CARIFTA Games. More than a year has gone since the games ended and up to last Friday, the funds had not been reimbursed.

Those games were to be a showpiece for the talented youngsters who train daily at Truman Bodden Sports Complex – only for several months leading up to the Games at their home stadium, they were unable to use the facilities. The athletes can’t be blamed for not having their best performances when they had nowhere to train with, clubs and parents having to find money to send athletes overseas to get some competition.

Barnes’ election in 2017 was supposed to usher in a new day. “We have to realise we’re in this together as a team. It’s a team effort, it’s not about us but about the youth of these islands. So that [has] to be top and centre of our priority,” he told Cayman Sports Buzz upon his election after a messy process that saw court action over who were eligible members to vote in the election, and a then an election process that only the best fiction writers could have imagined.

“We haven’t been seen as [being] in good standing by our parent body, so we have to organise ourselves in a way that we represent what they stand for,” he added.

Months earlier, Ronald Forbes and Kemar Hyman were set to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Oregon but an administrative mishap on the part of the CIAA resulted in a registration deadline being missed and one of them missing out because organisers granted Cayman an exemption and allowed only one athlete.

LOC co-chairs Joel Francis and Lance Barnes sign the MOU with NACAC President Victor Lopez, while the Sports Minister and Councillor Wight look on.

Later came news that Cayman was going to host the Caribbean’s premier youth track and field championships. Many breathed a sigh of relief as the CIAA was not going to be left on its own to ensure Cayman hosted a memorable event. With government money on the line, things had to go right. Barnes and fellow civil servant Joel Francis from the Ministry of Sports would co-chair the LOC.

“Government stands behind this commitment we [made] when we formally made the commitment that CARIFTA would be held within our jurisdiction, but they say you put your money where your mouth is,” Sports Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly stated, as government’s title sponsorship of the event was announced.

Things had to go right. There was no other option.

We’re overlooking that people were invited to form an LOC and then later told another LOC had been formed and they would not be on it. We’re also overlooking that more than one male coach was hauled before the courts for inappropriate relations with underage female athletes they were supposed to be training.

A new track would be laid, and Cayman’s athletes would be able to tune-up for the Games and deliver memorable performances. Only that never happened because the track that was originally scheduled to be completed by December, at least five months ahead of the Games, was finished just in time for CARIFTA. That’s why athletes had to head overseas to train and compete on weekends. Little wonder Cayman’s only medal came in a field event and not on the track.

At Cayman Sports Buzz, we are not in the name and blame business, but we disappointed though not shocked at the latest turn of events. The funds may quite quickly be reimbursed to those who were overcharged but another dark cloud is left looming over athletics and sports in the Cayman Islands.

There are no competitions happening, so Cayman could return to good standing before the next event that NACAC sanctions but the reputation of the CIAA, government and the Cayman Islands is being tarnished again not by the athletes who compete with “Cayman Islands” across their chest but by people in administrative positions.

Come on, it’s about time we get things right!

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.