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Track & Field News of Monday, 24 February 2003

Source: Kwasi Boti (A concerned Ghanaian taxpayer)

Ghana Athletics: The more things change,....

....the more they stay the same!!!!!

It is so ridiculous that even as the athletes are trying so hard to revamp the image of athletics, officials whether by choice or ignorance, are reverting to the old ways with creative modifications and claims of a “new approach”. In the recent (February 21) Graphic Sports article “GAA to adopt new system of selection”, the national federation has once again shown its ignorance or crookedness when it comes to athletic administration and the issue of performance verification.

In the article, the national federation indicates that over-reliance on the internet to monitor and assess the performance of Ghanaian athletes is to blame for the controversies surrounding team selection for international competitions last year. What a false premise to start on! How can the internet be at fault for laziness, corruption, and ineptness that has killed Ghanaian athletics? The internet had nothing to do with the wrongful and corrupt way in which athletes were “penciled in” as part of the Commonwealth Games team even before any competition had been had last year. Rather, it was the internet that exposed the lies and fraudulent ways in which and the “former” national coach and company selected athletes who had not as yet even competed. We put “former” in quotes, because after his illegal machinations in securing non-athletes visas for thousands of dollars, he is being maintained as a national coach, despite the disgrace it confers on us as a country. Yes, let’s keep him on the national payroll, despite his dishonesty.

That tells everyone, Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian alike, how corrupt we ALL are. After all, don’t forget that the embassies to which he falsified information all see that we refuse to fire him. All that does is implicate all of us; mark us all as accessories to the criminal behavior. And imagine these are the officials who have the gall to drop athletes from the team for indiscipline. Where is our morality? Where are our ethics as a nation? Shame on us for not being able to even weed the corrupt from our ranks. Does that mean we are all corrupt? If not, why is he being protected? This is the culture that will protect armed robbers, because apart from their armed robbery, they are all “nice people.” So, yes, let’s leave the corrupt coach in the system to victimize more innocent people! Good show, Ghana sports! If you can’t even remove corrupt sports administrators, how dare you ask for corrupt politicians to be removed!

But, back to athletics and the use of the internet. Let’s check and see: was it not the Athletes Association who via the internet, exposed the lies of S. S. Atuahene and co? Was it not the athletes who pointed all parties to the and websites for independent verification of performances? Was it not the athletes who through the use of the internet, for performance verification, sent officials back to the drawing board on THREE separate occasions to select a justifiable team last year?

The truth is, the use of the internet saved Ghana from sending in an under-qualified team of athletes of whom some had yet to compete as of selection. Because we have started to use “athletes” as a synonym for what we used to refer to as “sportsmen and sportswomen” we heard stories of a large number of “athletes” going to the Commonwealth Games and coming back with the worst performance we have ever had. But, the truth is that the track and field athletes (those we used to refer to athletes in the good old days) were represented by five people. Yes, only five track and field “athletes” went to last year’s commonwealth games, and this selection was the best in-form team we could produce, and this happened only because the athletes association used the internet to contest the officials’ kalabule. These five athletes ended up with a heptathlon 2nd place (silver medal) by Simpson, triple jump 4th place by Owusu, 200m 6th place by Aziz, and 100m semifinal by Nkansah (who was added a few days before the games. The fifth person Vida Anim got injured in the 100m. These were the only so-called athletes who went.

After the Commonwealth Games, because the spotlight was off, the association reverted to its crooked ways and added a whole host of athletes who were not qualified to its African Championship squad. The athletes from the Commonwealth Games did well even though the Ghana press has for some reason reported this wrongly. Although mismanagement made our sprinters (Aziz and Nkansah) miss the 100m, Simpson won gold in the heptathlon and Owusu and Aziz won silvers in the triple jump and 200m, respectively. The only other medal came from the women’s relay where all but three teams got disqualified, meaning that our trumped-up bronze medal really meant that we were “last.” But, did our officials tell the truth when they got home? Did any of you know that we won the relay bronze only because all other teams were disqualified? Then some of the athletes who were brought to the team after the Commonwealth Games dodged the 200m or stopped in the first kilometer of the 30 kilometer walking event. Yes, we took people who only went to chop, sleep, support. And now we have already selected some of the same people for the World Indoors, even though they haven’t qualified yet. And we have the audacity to say that we will shy away from the internet and use faxes to eliminate corruption. Shame on you Ghana athletics officials.

It is amazing that even though the IAAF puts out weekly world rankings for free on the internet for the whole world to access, we still want athletes to send faxes. Which means if Bonsu claims to have run 8 seconds in 100m this week, his name should appear in the rankings by next week. Simple eh? Anybody with access to the internet can go verify this.

NOT IN GHANA...............

Part II

Part two of “Ghana Athletics: The more things change, the more they stay the same!!!!!” explores the options that could help improve this cycle of mismanagement in athletics no matter how well intentioned, or in past cases, how ill intentioned the announced changes are. But before I continue, I have clear and conclusive evidence of how the lack of fore sight within the GAAA always leads to trouble.

Last week, the GAAA announced that six athletes had been invited for consideration to the World Indoor Championships in Athletics. How these names were selected, no one but the GAAA knows. Of the six, two, as of the GAAA press release had not yet met the qualifying standard, and of the latter two, one had not yet competed this year. So the question is, how did the GAAA manage to include these two names in the press release?

Unfortunately for the GAAA, Ghana now has two athletes who have run faster than all but one of the names mentioned in the press release. Of these two athletes, Leo Myles-Mills was on the original list and has expressed his dissatisfaction with the GAAA approach of selecting him even though he had not competed in almost two years. Leo said,”it is a matter of principle”.

Well, after the GAAA’s press release, Leo has run the fastest time by an African this year and is now ranked number 3 in the world. But even more condemning for the GAAA is that Kenneth Andam, who was not invited is now the number 2 ranked Ghanaian. Why the rush to select a team and actually name folks as “invited” when there is no criterion to determine who gets invited? Obviously, the GAAA cannot use the excuse that Andam had not competed yet since Leo was invited when he was yet to compete. So what will the GAAA do now? This new performance information was available on the internet, the very same day Leo and Andam competed.

IAAF puts out free world rankings on the internet so that member federations and the general public can have free and easy access to it. Great right? ........Not in Ghana. We want athletes to send a fax to Ghana saying I have run “so and so” then the athletics federation sends a fax to the IAAF to ask, “has Bonsu run 8 secs?” Guess what? All the IAAF will do, is to go to its database, that is has already put on the internet and say “yes or no, he has or has not”. I may not be smart but does this mean that both the athlete and the federation will be spending money and time sending faxes to verify information that is already available for free on the internet from the very same entity we will be sending faxes to? Now how smart is that. Let’s dissect this so called “New approach” via the use of fax machines to see why the federation is back to its old tricks:

    1. It doesn't spell out what the criteria are for the selection of the names in the current list AND what are the criteria, other than fax will be required

    2. If the goal is to verify from IAAF, then it doesn't require a fax, as one can verify via e-mail, telephone reports, and handwritten letter notifications of performance from the IAAF as easily as faxed stuff. In other words, faxes per se won't reduce fraud. There is evidence that even when GAAA has known that athlete performances are falsified they have still selected the athlete; there is NOTHING in the current plan to guard against that. Read what the athletes wrote last year; even when one of them had verified for GAAA that another athlete’s result was untrue they selected this athlete to Sydney where the IAAF promptly disqualified him from competing because he had not made the qualifying mark. So, corrupt systems can undermine verification.

    3. Indeed, the listing of names that don't represent our best performers to date suggests that kalabule is still the order of the day in GAAA. Leo Myles-Mills had not competed yet as of the GAAA press release of the list of invites. Ernest Osei has not met the qualification time, and Monica Twum, the fastest female sprinter so far this year, will be competing at the NCAA championships the same weekend as the world championships. So, on what basis are they selected (invitation) already? What is going to happen now that Kenneth Andam is ranked number two amongst Ghanaian male sprinters?

    4. So come again, GAAA! Do the right thing if you really want to avoid another shameful confrontation as last year. What should you do?

    a. Get in touch with the athletes who are obviously more well versed than you are in terms of knowledge of peer performances. Was it not these same athletes who cried “foul” when their fellow unqualified athletes were selected? I doubt last year's furor, raised by the athletes has died down. Yet the GAAA is daring these athletes again by going about business the same old way. Think again. Indeed, if you were serious about this reform you would have set standards in October or November so that everyone was abreast of them before the season started. Now, a few weeks before the world indoors the GAAA has come out with a selection that it has not justified and also a vague statement about how faxes will enable better selections. Why does the GAAA continuously think it can pull the wool over Ghanaian eyes? “We no go sit down make you do this again ooooo!” Mr. Wilson, you are a new secretary. Do things well or you won’t be long in that office just as your predecessors.

    b. Consult with the athletes about what are appropriate selection criteria; indeed, last year they suggested a number of things that needed to be factored into selection. e.g., by your "new" criteria, someone who runs fast very early in the year but is out of form as competition approaches can still get selected since they can produce verifiable faxed evidence of their performance. But, Ghana needs its best in-form athletes and you can help clarify that by giving more thought to what the athletes association suggested last year. The athletes suggested ways in which current form could be evaluated

    c. To avoid wasting national resources, the GAAA needs to shape up and do so NOW, otherwise it will be provoking the same kind of reaction as last year. Note that the truth always wins out in the end so if it chooses to go in the same ambiguous, and in the past corrupt, direction as it has in the past, it will lose out just as some corrupt officials last year. If the GAAA legitimately wants to do the right thing, then it should embrace the athletes association and work with them to reform the broken system. How can a federation make such a pertinent decision about its athletes without any input nor feedback from the athletes?

    d. GAAA needs to act like it has the country's good at heart. One would think that after the problems of last year, a word to the wise would have been enough