By: Moses Blonkanjay Jackson (MsEd, EdM)
In my thinking thoughts, I reflected a recent football match in Sinkor where a refined Community FC lost two goals to zero to a rather rowdy so-called “Gana-gana FC”. I had initially enjoyed the agility and adroitness displayed by the Gana-gana boys in the first 45 minutes; however, when I discovered that the prowess that Gana-gana exhibited was not their natural strength and talents but was instead, fake, and spurred by the illegal drugs that they had consumed before the game, was boiling in their very blood and setting them on fire, my enjoyment stopped. As I watched them kick, rumble, jump, run and tackle without showing signs of fatigue, I wondered, “How did these two absolutely diverse groups get matched up to play under such a risky circumstance: one drunk with drugs and the other sober with conscience?”
On the one hand, Community FC comprised of young adults and civil servants who were simply finding means to exercise and maintain good health by playing friendly football matches. Gana-gana FC on the other hand, was a rowdy bunch comprised mostly of illegal drug abusers, thieves and wayward youths who posed as garage apprentices, vagrants who slept in ghettos, and “zogoes” who hanged around street corners and communities to snatch whatever. The match therefore was simply a hurriedly arranged substitute of a previous match postponed at the 11th hour to pass the day with Gana-gana FC whose coach was high on drugs throughout the 90 minutes, had no control over his boys and was smiling and chewing something which I presumed was a gum.
Now, as Gana-gana celebrated her 2-0 victory after the game, I had reflections and questions that took me beyond this small local game to the recent 2016 national sports meet hosted by Saah N’Tow’s Ministry of Youth and Sports. For this community game, suppose each of the players had been tested and removed for using illegal drugs, would the scores have been otherwise? “If yes, what policies or enforcement means would the organizers had used to determine who should be removed?” If there are no answers, isn’t it good enough to believe that Gana-gana’s victory was fake?
In the case of the recent MYS, since there were no visible mechanisms to weed out gana-gana spurred participants, one could be tempted to assert that there were fake and unfair victories during the recent National County Sports meet. Matter-of-factly speaking, what would MYS officials have done if they had observed characteristics of gana-gana players in the competition?
Gana-gana use in Liberia
Before I become remiss, doping or “taking Gana-Gana” in Liberian English means consuming some form of narcotic drugs or alcoholic beverages. Dope or gana-gana could be an alcoholic beverage such as raw cane juice or locally brewed spirits mixed with herbal roots. It could be marijuana, cocaine, number 10 tablets, dust from dead body bones, just to name a few. It is believed that when athletes take “gana-gana” in whatever form, it stimulates them, spurs their performance, gives them extra energy and makes them brave. There is rumor that armed robbers usually take gana-gana before setting out to do mischief; there is also rumor that some adults who are high profiled, cannot stand before any crowd to speak or perform if they do not “get high” or take “gana-gana” In some countries, law makers and cabinet ministers take gana-gana before they go to sessions so that they can be recklessly argumentative, uncompromising, unreasonable and most times to act stupid. Some men never achieve erections or enjoy sex if they do not take gana-gana. I wonder if some teachers take gana-gana before going to class. God forbid!
While gana-gana may be in constant use by big shots and small shots, its use in sports goes further back in the days than one would imagine. Back in the days, some football players got “high” before entering important round town and national football matches. While this was the case, it was not rampant but rather done under cover. These days one often hears openly, “I am going to Barca yard to take my “gana-gana” and prepare for the match or be correct” Barca yard itself has come to mean “ ghetto”, in modern day Liberian pidgin.
Gana-gana Spurred Victories
When one considers the shakes, swings and sways in the recent national county sports meet, and the glaring absence of an anti-doping policy enforcement mechanism at the Liberia Football Association (LFA) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS), it is easy to assume that “gana-gana” was a significant factor to some of the victories.
As Liberians lined the streets to watch the victory celebrations staged by Montserrado County, did anybody wonder if some of the players took gana-gana to help them perform and win the trophy? Was that victory march to Bensonville fake, undeserved or genuine? Did Nimba beat Lofa without the help of gana-gana?; how did Margibi lose to Maryland County? What about the spanking Bassa County received from Nimba? Was it gana-gana that spurred Montserrado to flog Lofa? If the MYS had anti-doping detection and enforcement policies, wouldn’t the scores have been different?
The big question is, “Was the success of the 2016 National County Sports Meet, as confidently showcased by Hon. Saah N’tow, fake and bridled by illegal drug users? Was the whole event which is being boasted as being successful in error and noncompliance with national standards of the WADA and RADOs? In similar vein, was our friend Saah N’tow’s revered County Sports Meet genuine and properly managed in compliance with the international Anti-Doping in Sports CODE?
Liberia’s Status in Anti-Doping Arena
Fellow sport lovers, before I be considered anti-N’tow or anti-whatever, be consoled that Liberia is not alone in the fight against illegal drugs use in sports. All over the world, reputable athletes have been disgraced. Some either used banned substances deliberately or due to ignorance. Many sportsmen have traveled abroad for “justify your inclusions” perhaps including Liberians, and failed and returned frustrated because samples of banned substances were found their blood simply because their countries were in non-compliance and the story goes on and on.
For your information, doping in sports is cheating. In competitive sports, it refers to the use of banned athletic performance-enhancing drugs by athletic competitors; hence, the use of banned drugs to enhance performance is considered unethical, and therefore prohibited, by most international sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee. In spite of these proscriptions and awareness there continues to be incidences of doping in sports the world over.
It was for those reasons that a UNESCO Convention birthed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), an international, independent organization monitoring the global fight against doping in sport and given custody of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code).
In order to monitor compliance, WADA collaborates with National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs) responsible for testing national athletes in- and out-of-competitions, as well as athletes from other countries competing within that nation’s borders; adjudicating anti-doping rules violations; and anti-doping education. WADA has worked with stakeholders in areas of the world, where there exist limited or no anti-doping activities to pool resources and develop Regional Anti-Doping Organizations (RADOs), so that all nations will be engaged in anti-doping programs. Where is Liberia in all this?
To these ends, in the absence of information from Saah N'tow’s MYS regarding Liberia’s status and position on Anti-Doping in sports, there will always be conversations in circles over the authenticity of the successes and victories achieved by Liberian athletes. If we prepared a thesis on the achievements of the Ministry of Sports less the inclusion of a chapter on its efforts towards the CODE on anti-doping in sports that would definitely be professionally antithetical.
Now, may the Ministry of Youth and Sports in collaboration with the National Olympic Committee receive favor from the Compassionate Savior to pursue the ratification of the Anti-Doping Convention in order to render Liberia eligible to gain membership in one of the RADOs in Africa leading to a NADO in Liberia, in Jesus name.
I am simply thinking thoughts.
About the author: The Rivercess man, Mwalimu-Mku Moses Blonkanjay Jackson previously served the Government of Liberia for four years (2011 -2015) as MOE/GPE/World Bank Project Consultant, and Assistant Minister for Teacher Education. The Rivercess man is currently conducting private business as Education Consultant and teacher training in Liberia; he can be contacted at +231 886 681 315/+231 770 206