Athlete slams Samoa sports

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FASTEST MAN IN THE PACIFIC: Jeremy Dodson switched from the U.S. to represent Samoa.

FASTEST MAN IN THE PACIFIC: Jeremy Dodson switched from the U.S. to represent Samoa.

The administration of sports in Samoa has come under the microscope once more. This time, American-based Sprinter, Jeremy Dodson, dubbed the fastest man in the South Pacific, has raised serious questions about the way sports are run.

The questions are raised in a piece titled “A letter to Samoa sports” posted on his blog, www.jeremy-dodson.com, which has quickly gone viral on social media.

“From the three years I have represented Samoa, I have seen officials do nothing but get free trips, trips spent lounging in sponsored hotels while athletes eat processed food,” Dodson’s open letter reads.

“I have seen officials get elected not off merits, but friendships. 

I have seen decisions being made about sports they have never attended or know anything about. I have even seen sport funding being spent on bar tabs that date back over three years in Apia bars!”

The Samoa Observer referred Dodson’s Open letter to the President of Samoa Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C), Fepulea’i Patrick Fepulea’i, yesterday for a comment. 

Last night, Fepulea’i said he respects Dodson’s right to voice his views but “unfortunately I do not agree with his generalisations.”

“I am disappointed with his generalisation including false accusations that we are funnelling money into our pockets. Sports administrators, other than the full time staff do not get paid. They do this on a voluntary basis,” Fepulea’i said.

The President also expressed surprise at Dodson’s challenge.

“At no time did he express any views that he was unhappy with S.A.S.N.O.C and/or the Athletics Association. He had the opportunity to raise any grievances with me but elected not to.

“At the end of the day we at S.A.S.N.O.C do our bit to help the different sports. We help our weightlifting association, swimming association for example secure I.O.C scholarships for its athletes.” (read Fepulea’i’s response inside).

Dodson, who made several United States of America national teams – including their Olympic team – switched to represent Samoa several years ago.

He ran for Samoa during the most recent Olympic Games, becoming one of the first two athletes from Samoa to qualify for the Olympic track and field events.

But Dodson has become quite sad with what he has seen in the running of sports in Samoa.

“That is not the country I was raised to know,” he writes. 

“All I ask is that officials do their job, and if you can’t, step down for someone else who can. I am more than happy to find well-qualified individuals that would be happy to make the change. 

“Athletics Samoa is doing a great job, but they are only a subset of S.A.S.N.O.C. Athletics is not the only sport in Samoa. Prove to me that I made the right decision to represent Samoa, a country rich in culture, loyalty, and honor.”

Jeremy Dodson is an Olympic Track & Field sprinter with a Master's in Business Administration, and Bachelor's in Sociology, Economics, and Neurophysiology.

The following is Dodson’s letter in full:

 

 

An open letter to Samoan sports 

Jeremy Dodson*

www.jeremy-dodson.com

 

Athletes are ambassadors for health and that is a general concept. 

The moment the athlete becomes a professional and goes internationally is when the athlete becomes an ambassador for something bigger, like a sponsor, a country, and even a culture. 

The responsibility can bring similarities to that of government ambassadors, where the role is to bring the core ideals and principles to foreign entities.

SASNOC PRESIDENT:Patrick Fepuleai.
SASNOC PRESIDENT:Patrick Fepuleai.

The purpose of this writing is to clear up a misconception of who we are and our intentions. 

I was born in the United States to a Samoan mother. Although that makes me American, my core values are developed by the way I was raised. I was raised in a Samoan culture, a culture of loyalty, honor, family, and among other noble traits. Unfortunately, I couldn’t control where I was born, but I can control what I represent.

I was talented enough to make several USA National teams, including an Olympic Team. For those who know track and field, the USA team is also known as the “hardest team to make”. The task is so difficult, that there are athletes who rank top 10 in the world and still fail to make the USA team. The team is arguably the best; therefore, the athletes represent the best. But, I never felt that representing the “best” was sufficient for my purpose, so I left.

A large part of my family lives in New Zealand and Australia, so that was my initial direction. Although I would have qualified for Australia’s A-Standard Team that pays $80,000 a year, it wasn’t a great enough reason to choose them. 

I wanted my efforts as an athlete to provide opportunity for others, not just myself. With my unique experience and knowledge, I could become an ambassador to and for Samoa.

I have reached levels in the sport that few have achieved, so it was a perfect opportunity to bring something with me, and that became the nation of Samoa. Samoa deserves honorable recognition by talented athletes, and not a pity clap for unqualified athletes. Samoa should never grace the bottom of the results list, which is not representative of the culture.

It took an unnecessary amount of time to make the switch official (communication, process, etc.), so patience was practiced. However, what I lack patience for is the politics that go along with power given to elected officials who refuse to do their job. Officials (Federation Presidents, Olympic Committee Presidents, etc.) were worried that I wanted to “take” something, or possibly force them to do the work they were elected to do. Well, it’s about time work starts to be done.

There is nothing I would want to “take”. Free Trips? I am an elite track athlete, sponsored by Adidas, that makes a living by racing. Out of the 300+ meets I have travelled to for competitions, three (3) of those trips have been for Samoa, partially paid by my own money. There are arguments that it is an easy way to make an Olympic Team. Alex Rose and myself qualified for the Olympics by our own merits (hitting the qualifying standards), a feat that an average of 25 athletes in the world accomplished in each event. We were one of those athletes.

Samoa was no longer on the list for countries with “unqualified athletes”. There were three (3) countries in Oceania that had qualified athletes for 2016 Olympic Games in Athletics, Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa.

It is not an easy task to be an internationally elite athlete, but for our efforts, we are rewarded with more scrutiny, laziness, and lack of loyalty. We don’t ask for money, but funding does aid in the process. When I hear that the best rugby team in the world pays their athletes 20WST a week, I see disrespect. No wonder they can’t live up to their full potential, because they are treated with ignorance, while the high authority steals their earnings.

The goal is to create wealth for our culture. If you think that you will be rich by funneling money from your sport to your own pockets, then you don’t understand the true meaning of wealth. Sport is bigger than being famous and rich. It is about highlighting the true talents of a nation. We are ambassadors for our country. Therefore, we should be treated as such. Money spent on bettering these athletes is an investment that could enrich Samoa. Why would any team or person visit Samoa if they see how their own athletes are treated internationally?

From the three years I have represented Samoa, I have seen officials do nothing but get free trips, trips spent lounging in sponsored hotels while athletes eat processed food. I have seen officials get elected not off merits, but friendships. I have seen decisions being made about sports they have never attended or know anything about. I have even seen sport funding being spent on bar tabs that date back over three years in Apia bars!

That is not the country I was raised to know. All I ask is that officials do their job, and if you can’t, step down for someone else who can. I am more than happy to find well qualified individuals that would be happy to make the change. Athletics Samoa is doing a great job, but they are only a subset of SASNOC. Athletics is not the only sport in Samoa. Prove to me that I made the right decision to represent Samoa, a country rich in culture, loyalty, and honor.

 

President Fepulea’i responds 

 

Jeremy is one of our elite athletes with Alex Rose. 

Like he stated both he and Alex qualified on merit for the Rio Olympics, which is the first time, this has happened for Samoa and something that we are all proud of. 

Representing Samoa comes with its pitfalls. 

We do not pay any of our athletes. Jeremy is fortunate that he has a personal sponsor in Adidas. When he qualified for the Olympics in Rio, his fare was paid for by the IOC. 

S.A.S.N.O.C paid for his uniform and outfitting and also paid small allowance plus a share from the proceeds of the S.A.S.N.O.C Sports Awards.

Jeremy was also at the recent Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan. Everything was paid for him and his brother as coach to attend these Games. 

I met up with Jeremy and his brother about three weeks ago and asked how things were going. At no time did he express any views that he was unhappy with S.A.S.N.O.C and/or the Athletics Association. He had the opportunity to raise any grievances with me but elected not to.

At the end of the day we at S.A.S.N.O.C do our bit to help the different sports. We help our weightlifting association, swimming association for example secure IOC scholarships for its athletes.

I am disappointed with his generalisation including false accusations that we are funnelling money into our pockets. Sports administrators, other than the full time staff do not get paid. They do this on a voluntary basis. Like he said if the rugby players get paid WST$20 per week (which I am sure is not correct) but that underlines the reality of Samoa in Samoa.

I respect Jeremy’s right to voice his views but unfortunately I do not agree with his generalisations.

Regards.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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