Olympian Drysdale-Daley cries foul about selection process but JJA says athlete's exclusion from qualification due to disregard for deadlines

By June 14, 2024
British-born Ebony Drysdale-Daley (left) in action for Jamaica. British-born Ebony Drysdale-Daley (left) in action for Jamaica.

Jamaica’s British-born judoka Ebony Drysdale-Daley has accused the Jamaican Judo Association (JJA) of bias where selection for this summer’s Paris Olympic Games is concerned, as she believes her path to qualification is deliberately being blocked by the powers that be.

With only one judo spot available to Jamaica for the upcoming Games, Drysdale-Daley, who became the country’s first athlete to compete in judo at an Olympic Games, when she graced the 2021 Tokyo edition, argued that she is now being overlooked by the association since her male counterpart Ashley McKenzie came in the picture.

McKenzie, who was also born in England, and won a silver medal at last year’s Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, currently occupies the coveted spot, as he is nine points ahead of Drysdale-Daley.

It is on that basis why Drysdale-Daley, the 2022 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, alleges that her self-funded effort to attend a qualifying event in an attempt to possibly overhaul McKenzie is being hindered by the association's hierarchy.

“I feel the federation has shown no impartiality. I feel there is a real question of ethics, a real question of integrity. The Jamaican Judo association is blocking me from attending and competing in my last qualifying event, an event that I have self-funded and paid for. They (the JJA) told me that they weren't going to help finance, even though when I was in qualifying position, a fund was in reserve to help athletes in that position. But I never questioned that, I did my best to crowdfund and work for it,” Drysdale-Daley shared in a widely-circulated video lasting almost four minutes.

“They have removed me from competition registry. The Jamaican Judo Association had initially registered me for this event, now they have removed me. I feel there are clear and present inconsistencies and I have evidence and emails to support this. I feel the Jamaican Judo Association have favoured the other athlete in contention over me. They have effectively secured and ensured the other athletes qualification ahead of mine by blocking me from this final tournament of which I have paid flights for,” she added.

That tournament which Drysdale-Daley refers to is the Lima Pan American Open starting on June 21. This represents the final competition before the qualification deadline.

The allegations by the 29-year-old raises questions about fairness and transparency within the Judo Association and beyond, as she also leveled claims that she is being ignored and pushed aside by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA).

“The Jamaican Olympic Association, and the Jamaican Judo Association have not responded to my emails and have cruelly ignored me. The deadline for me to be re-entered is in two days’ time. This is very time sensitive. I feel let down by my peers. I feel so alone,” Drysdale-Daley noted as she fought back tears.

JJA President Dwayne Barnett.

However, the Dwayne Barnett-led JJA in a release, emphatically denied the allegations, and stressed its steadfast commitment to fairness, integrity, and providing equal opportunities for all athletes.

“The JJA categorically refutes any claims of impropriety or personal interests influencing the selection process. The General Secretary and other mentioned individuals have no personal or vested interests that would compromise the integrity of these processes. The JJA upholds the highest standards of impartiality and professionalism,” the JJA statement read.

On that note, the JJA explained that its decision to omit Drysdale-Dale from qualification was made on the basis of the athlete’s disregard for deadlines, including for Anti-doping testing, which she failed to turn up for on two occasions.

“It is important to clarify that Olympic qualification in judo requires athletes to meet specific criteria. As in most sports, if not in all, qualification is based on merit and current performance of athletes so as to ensure the best representation. The JJA subscribes to this principle,” it declared.

“The decision to exclude Ebony from the upcoming qualifying event was solely based on her consistent failure to comply with deadlines and her repeated attempts to circumvent the processes established by the JJA for efficient management of competition entries. The importance of adhering to these deadlines has been communicated to all athletes on numerous occasions,” JJA added.

Regarding support and funding, the JJA revealed that Drysdale-Daley has received financial support exceeding US$50,000 from the JOA and other strategic partners since the day she began to represent Jamaica in judo.

“The JJA empathizes with Ebony Drysdale-Daley's disappointment and frustration. However, it is imperative to recognize that deadlines are an essential component of our processes. The JJA stands by its decisions, which are made in accordance with established rules and regulations,” the release stated.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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