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Owen Darrell ‘fully confident’ Bermuda flag will fly at Pan Am Games

Under scrutiny: Owen Darrel, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Owen Darrell, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, has said that he is “fully confident” Bermuda’s flag will be flying at the Pan American Games in Chile next month.

The prospect of Bermuda’s athletes walking into the National Stadium in Santiago without a flag was raised after the Bermuda Sports Anti-Doping Authority was declared noncompliant by Wada’s executive board last week following a recommendation from its Compliance Review Committee.

However, Darrell has confirmed to The Royal Gazette that he expects the situation to be resolved shortly after the required documentation was recently submitted to Wada.

“I can confirm that the draft legislation was submitted prior to the Wada meeting last Friday,” Darrell said.

“They have since which come back with minor changes that they wish to be made. The requirement for Wada was a draft legislation. Once we get the OK from Wada, the Bill will go through the normal legislative process with the intention to be passed before the end of this year.

“We will be resubmitting the changes to Wada this week and are fully confident that our status will be changed to compliant prior to the start of the Pan Am Games.”

Darrell also believes that “any sanctions will not go into effect until 20 days from now”, despite article 9.3.1 of the International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories stating the island has 21 days following the date of receipt of the formal notice of noncompliance to dispute Wada’s assertion, as well as the consequences and/or the reinstatement conditions proposed by the agency.

There has been political fallout from Wada’s decision with Darrell hitting back at calls for him to step down by Ben Smith, former Shadow Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, and the One Bermuda Alliance by-election candidate for Smith's South.

Smith, also the national swimming coach, said in a statement that the situation has caused international embarrassment.

“Although it is possible that the Government may be able to quickly pull together the legislation to move Bermuda into compliancy, the reputational damage has already been done,” Smith said in a statement.

“We need to have accountability in leadership and this is perfect time for the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, Owen Darrell, to show it.

“The local agency for anti-doping Bermuda Sports Anti-Doping Agency would have learnt about required changes in 2022. There would have been communication from the World Anti-Doping Agency with the exact wording required for the amendment and a deadline to have it completed. They would have given more than enough time for compliance and communication to warn of the deadlines.

“Minister Darrell should be transparent and indicate the date that the Ministry was made aware of the requirement and deadline. What action was taken by his ministry to have the Attorney-General draft the amendment and when was that communicated?

“There has been a breakdown in the system and the minister needs to explain it. Brushing it under the rug because now it has become urgent isn’t good enough.

“To say this is an embarrassment is an understatement since almost half of the sporting budget in Bermuda is allotted to BSADA so how could something so critical be missed?

“The minister thought it was important enough to attend the Wada Forum in January. According to a statement released on January 28, the minister joined other sports ministers throughout the Caribbean region at the forum to discuss matters such as; establishing a strong legal framework for anti-doping, further developing and implementing effective testing and education programmes and collaborating for protecting clean athletes and the integrity of sports’.

“Now the minister has failed to provide the legal framework that was requested by Wada. If BSADA communicated the requirements to the Minister and he didn’t do it, he should step down immediately in light of the international embarrassment that has been caused already.”

However, Darrell was quick to hit back at Smith’s claims saying that he and his team of technical officers have been working hard.

“Ben Smith in his role as the national swim coach would be aware of how hard this minister works to support the athletes and national sports governing bodies of Bermuda,” Darrell said.

“With the increase in funding for some of the same athletes that Ben Smith coaches, it’s disappointing that he would call for a resignation instead of calling me to get the facts on how hard technical officers have worked, and are working, to satisfy Wada’s requirements.

“BSADA, as reported, came with the minister to Jamaica, where we met directly with Wada officials. Dialogue has been ongoing with BSADA, Wada and the Government to amend the legislation [The Anti-Doping In Sport Act 2011] all year .”

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Published September 26, 2023 at 8:01 am (Updated September 26, 2023 at 7:22 pm)

Owen Darrell ‘fully confident’ Bermuda flag will fly at Pan Am Games

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