Thursday, October 13, 2016


by Karen 

Like many persons out in the world, I have been paying particular attention to the Presidential campaign currently taking place in the United States of America.  Every 4 years I do so.  I do it not because I have a vote or because I am fond of the policies of either candidate but I have always thought it is a good idea to at least be aware of current events all over the world as they happen. 

Frankly, the way the US conducts its business should be of interest to people all over the world.  The President of the US is usually the person who mandates trade negotiations which impact people like me from the Caribbean who has seen their manufacturing and agricultural sectors die as a result of laws that have been passed by the US Congress protecting American industries from imports.   On a much more serious note, we see guns and ammunition arriving in the Islands of the Caribbean from the US and these guns have contributed significantly to violent crime. 

I currently live and work in the Cayman Islands and the clamp down on offshore jurisdictions has meant the loss of jobs and the moving of companies to other jurisdictions where they are not as frightened of the might of the US Government as we here in the Caribbean seem to be.  

When I started this blog in 2009 it was mostly to talk about women's tennis, and to open up a serious discussion on the way how the women's game was being treated by broadcasters.  Fast forward 7 years later and I would say that things have improved substantially since I first started writing about the women's game.  There is still a lot of work to be done but I suspect that as the women have become more outspoken in press conferences my work in highlighting the sexism that has permeated the sport, my role with my little blog has served its purpose. 

I started this post by talking about the current US Presidential election.  I have just finished watching Michelle Obama's speech where she is campaigning for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.  Mrs. Obama opined that the words that she heard from Donald Trump shook her to her core. I don't believe that Mrs. Obama was making that up. Her voice shook and she had the audience spell bound in her sincerity.  I can tell you that this woman from all the way in the Cayman Islands broke down in tears. 

The news media have called into question the tales of the women who have come forward accusing both Bill Clinton (Hillary Clinton's husband) and Donald Trump (the Republican Nominee) of sexual assault.  The question that is being asked by the media is why are these women just now coming forward. Let me stop right here and say this.  If they had come forward 10 years earlier or when it happened, would we not have heard the same questions being asked?  

As someone who has worked with women who have been sexually assaulted, or for that matter raped and degraded, it takes a lot for a woman to come out and say that this happened to me.  As a survivor myself, I can tell you that it is not the easiest thing in the world to do.  You are ashamed.  You feel as if it is your fault.  You blame yourself and frankly, if you grew up in the Caribbean, you get blamed for allowing this to happen to you. 

I have had family members who have been molested.  I have seen young boys and girls who have been molested. I have seen grown women who are married and whose husbands have raped them and beaten them to within an inch of their lives, you put them in shelters and when the time comes to prosecute these men, the wives and girlfriends recant.  

As a survivor who has been down that road, you don't condemn these women for recanting.  You don't condemn them for wasting the Court's time and you certainly don't condemn them because they waited too damned long to talk about it.  

Sexual assault is an intrusion into a woman's private space.  I have seen marriages and relationships end because the woman's partners were unable to deal with their partners being abused.  It is a double blow for the woman as not only has she been violated, but the person who should be standing with her through this crisis is too weak to do so.  For these women who have come out and spoken against both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, it took a lot of courage.  It meant reliving their worst nightmare.  It meant opening up themselves to new lines of attack against their character. 

I wish that this had not become an issue.  If it is that politicians wished to speak about sexual assault, they should really be speaking about it in terms of protecting women with proper legislation.  They should be talking about creating shelters for these women and crisis centers where the women and their children could be safeguarded.  In the same way that politicians in the US speak about fighting terrorists, they should be talking about protecting the most vulnerable in society with the same amount of zeal and effort. 

I don't live in the US but I can't imagine that well thinking people are happy about the way in which this supposedly greatest democracy on earth is conducting itself for the world to see.  It is incredibly disappointing.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


by the Spin Team

When Fancy Bears, a group of Russian hackers obtained information from WADA on American athletes, there were many who were of the view that finally someone was going to expose the corruption that is supposedly rampant amongst Olympic participants.  Fancy Bears made sure that they obtained the medical information of prominent American athletes and they leaked this information into the public domain. Athletes like Venus and Serena Williams and Simone Biles had their confidential medical information exposed for the world to see, but as we have seen the only thing that the Fancy Bears hacking exposed is that there is a prescribed protocol for athletes to follow when it comes to taking medication that is otherwise on the list of WADA prohibited substances.

This morning (4 October) the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) made its decision in the case of ITF v. Maria Sharapova.  As most of you may recall the ITF handed down a 2 year ban from the sport to Ms. Sharapova on the basis that she was negligent even though she did not intend to dope (take that for whatever it means).  Today, CAS reduced that 2 year ban to 15 months, which means that Ms. Sharapova can return to competition in April 2017. 

Prior to CAS’ results being made available to the public, we saw Sharapova posting pictures on social media actively training.  One only therefore has to speculate that she already knew CAS’ decision.  There were many tennis commentators who took to social media over the last few days expressing support for Sharapova and hoping that her 2 year ban would be overturned.  They got their wish. 

There was an article being posted on social media that speaks about the so called integrity of tennis.  The writer opined that part of the so called “clean image” that tennis has is its lax testing policy.  I will go further and say that there are those in tennis who prefer that the image of tennis be seen as a clean sport.  The ITF and its subsidiaries (ATP/WTA) make a mockery of the word integrity.  The Tennis Integrity Unit (“TIU”), an underfunded, understaffed entity, tries to fool the rest of the world into thinking that it is doing a stand up job, when it announces the lifetime ban of a player ranked 1,000 from the sport, someone who no one has ever heard of, on the basis that said person is bringing the sport into disrepute.

Upon the announcement of Ms. Sharapova’s reduced ban, her racquet sponsor, HEAD sent a congratulatory tweet.  

How is this even appropriate?  It was bad enough when said racquet sponsor’s chief executive made ridiculous statements about her use of a prohibited substances, a congratulatory tweet is not only damaging to that particular brand, but seems to suggest that a reduction in a ban is something to be celebrated.  How did we get to this place? 

Tennis, and tennis players, tries to portray itself as a role model for young people. There are many former athletes who have become political and they speak about honouring the integrity of the sport by competing fairly and honestly.  For 10 years, Ms. Sharapova took a drug that was not only not prescribed for her, but was taken in such a way as to improve her performance during matches.  The fact that the ITF described her attitude as negligent says it all.  Indeed, if we recall, neither Ms. Sharapova or her team of lawyers provided any evidence to the ITF that the drug she was taking was medically necessary.

As we saw in the Fancy Bears leak, if an athlete has an illness and is prescribed drugs, the next step is to obtain a therapeutic use exemption (“TUE”).  The question that needs to be asked before Ms. Sharapova returns to the WTA Tour is whether she has applied for, and been granted a TUE for a drug that both she and her lawyers have claimed was medically necessary.  If she has not, then we are only left to believe that not only was the taking of the drug during all those years medically unnecessary, but that despite the ITF and CAS’ ruling, Ms. Sharapova was indeed intentionally doping.

I am sure that Ms. Sharapova’s sponsors, her management agency are all quite happy at this outcome. However, tennis fans, especially those who have become sick and tired of so called stars flouting the system and getting away with it, may not welcome Ms. Sharapova’s return with open arms.