JAMAICAN cricketer Odean Brown, who has just returned from suspension after an anti-doping whereabouts rule violation, praised family and friends who stood by him during his 15 months out of the game.
Conversely, the 35-year-old blasted the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) for not providing support on the scale that he thought he deserved.
“During my suspension nobody from the JCA reached out to me. I represented the country for so many years — from 2003 — and not even a phone call or an e-mail to say ‘keep going’,” the wrist spinner told the Jamaica Observer during an interview at Chedwin Park cricket ground last week.
“I have a bitter taste about that and this has to stop… you have to support your players through thick or thin; you don’t just cast them aside,” continued the impassioned demand from Brown.
Francis conceded, however, that the criticism will help to guide the association’s handling of future cases of similar nature.
“If he [Brown] feels that way it is very unfortunate, but support can be subjective. We thought we had offered some moral support, but if what we did was not enough it is something we will have to look into.
“Any request he made to the JCA in a personal capacity we delivered. Junior Bennett, who was coach at the time, was a witness on his behalf at the hearing,” Francis told the Observer when contacted.
“It was a first time for the JCA, so we were not used to the situation. We sympathise and we wish him all the best and give him all the support that he’s back in the fold. We will use the [Andre] Russell situation to improve on that. I will call him [Russell] myself and talk to him,” Francis added.
In January, Russell was banned for a year for failing to file his whereabouts on three occasions during a 12-month span.
Brown said his wife Nesha, his parents and siblings were quite supportive during the ban.
“My wife has always been there; she’s been like a rock. She has supported me through highs and lows and she still supports me…she is the strongest person I know,” he said.
He also praised support given by the West Indies Players’ Association, led by president Wavell Hinds, as well as the St Catherine Cricket Club, Jamaican cricket superstar Christopher Gayle, former JCA vice-president Milton Henry and long-time coach and national selector Ephraim McLeod.
Brown said the 15-month layoff was a long, hard road that brought spiritual light at the proverbial end of the tunnel.
“At first it was bit stressful on me and on the family because that’s my livelihood. The 15 months were stressful; I went through a lot of ups and downs.
“It was an eye-opener and the thing about the ban is that it opened doors in terms of knowing friends and family. I lost a lot of persons I thought were friends during the process. Some of them drifted because once you’re down only the real ones normally stand up with you. I never had many [friends], anyway,” the experienced cricketer said, while sitting in the shade of mango trees.
“In the end it was a win for me because it led me to Christ; it was a blessing and I converted my life to serve [the Lord], so hats off to Pastor Howard Reynolds. When you have a setback it builds you and I spent a lot of time with my family and we now have a tighter bond,” he explained, as his wife and daughter Summer walked along the boundary ropes at the opposite side of the grounds.
Brown, eligible for competitive action since February 25 this year, was found guilty of once failing to file his whereabouts and also missing two drug tests during a one-year period.
Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, three such failures during a one-year period amount to a failed test.
Brown’s relaxed demeanour was unable to cover the traces of anguish in his voice as he recounted the fateful episode surrounding the third failure.
“The last one was where they turned up at my house and I was on my way to training and my wife called to tell me that JADCO (Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission) was there. I told her to tell them I was on my way to a practice match. They came there and they saw me, but it was outside of my testing hour so they recorded that as a missed test.
“To me it was harsh because… if you turn up and you saw me at the practice match then at least you could use leniency but it wasn’t like that because once you miss it, you miss it with JADCO,” the bowler explained.
The veteran of 67 first-class matches, who said he is ready to fight back for a place in regional cricket, insists he will be a force to be reckoned with.
“I’ve moved on from there and looking to play cricket. This time will be bigger and better; I’m a lot stronger mentally and I have God on my side,” the St Catherine CC player emphasised.
Francis said the door is open for Brown’s re-entry.
“We value Odean Brown as our asset and a top bowler in regional cricket for many moons. He and [left-arm finger spinner] Nikita Miller have taken many wickets and won many games for Jamaica,” said the JCA CEO.