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Mon, Dec

Athletics chief must go easy on Martha Bissah

In June 2016, the Ghana Athletics Association (GAA) announced that it had placed an indefinite ban on young athlete, Martha Bissah, ‘for indiscipline and bringing the name of the association into disrepute.’

Last week, the GAA through its spokesperson, Erasmus Kwaw, reiterated that the ban was still in place and that the association had not considered lifting it anytime soon, a stance considered by some as worrying and an attempt to put the athlete’s future in jeopardy.

Winning the gold medal in the 800m at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, sparked some hope for the youngster who clocked 2:04.90 minutes to chalk up a feat no other Ghanaian had been able to achieve at the Olympics

It was the general expectation that the GAA will help her build upon this performance and get the young former Aduman Senior High School graduate, good grooming in the sport, for her to be able to excel at the senior level and in world athletics.

Rather, things have taken a different turn, fraught with frustrations and mutual suspicion and not even her admission to the Norfolk State University in the United States seems to be a solution as the GAA has stuck to its harsh stance.

Per the utterance of the GAA spokesperson, nothing has changed since the Executive Board on May 23, 2016, decided that she had been suspended and thus banned from competing in GAA-sanctioned events, as well as representing the nation at any international athletics competition.

Indeed, the GAA spokesperson, Erasmus Kwaw, called Martha’s bluff with his unfortunate statement that the youngster and any other athlete who wished to switch nationalities could do so. The option was, however, the individual’s decision (Story published in November 10, edition of the Graphic Sports).

Of course, Mr Kwaw can afford to speak as he did because he knows that currently, switching nationality is not possible for any athlete because there is an IAAF ban on that process which is undergoing review.

To date, the actual offence of Martha, who brought smiles on the faces of many athletics-loving Ghanaians when she surprisingly won gold has not been revealed apart from being accused of being disrespectful, refusing to honour an invitation and bringing the name of the association into disrepute.

It is entirely within the right of the GAA to punish athletes who misconduct themselves or do anything to bring the sport into disrepute, but in the case of Martha, it looks like the association has overstretched its rod against a youngster who may have erred out of sheer ignorance and needs to be guided onto the narrow path instead of any form of high-handedness which may not be in the best interest of the athlete or the nation in general.

She may have done all the things she has been accused of by the GAA, but the Graphic Sports believes she is just like other errant but talented sports stars, Martha deserves a pardon and a second chance to reform and enable Ghana to benefit from her talent and exposure in the US.

Is her crime so grievous that it can’t be overlooked? Or what does she have to do to get the ban reversed? Why is the GAA trying to throw away the baby with the bathwater?

Unless there is something other than what is in the public domain that the public is not aware of, the Graphic Sports urges the athletics chiefs to go easy on the youngster, particularly because sanctions are meant to reform and not destroy.

It is heart-warming that the Ministry of Youth and Sports wants to intervene and have the issue resolved and it is the expectation of the Graphic Sports that the issue would be resolved to help save Martha’s career.