President of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) Mike Sands said the organization stands behind the decision to allow Stephen Newbold to compete in the annual CARIFTA Games in April.
Sands’ comments came hours after reports surfaced that Newbold was charged in a Florida Court with discharging a firearm and resisting arrest. He was placed on a year probation after a judge accepted a plea agreement.
“If people are saying that the BAAA shouldn’t have allowed him to run, then I totally disagree with that,” said Sands. “At the end of the day, you must always have the presumption of innocence. Someone is innocent until proven guilty, that is a known fact in the court of law. Secondly, when persons are on probation or on parole, they are allowed to go about their normal duties or lives. I have no regrets of being a part of a decision making process that gave the young man the opportunity to compete.
“Everyone deserves a second chance. In the case of Stephen Newbold, to deny him an opportunity to compete at CARIFTA would have been a presumption of guilt, rather than a presumption of innocence. I stand by the position taken by the BAAA and the executive decision, which allowed him to do what he did at the games. Even at this juncture, the fact that he was found guilty in a court of law does not preclude him from competing. I see nothing wrong with him going and starting to live a normal life. It is unfortunate that he found himself in circumstances that brought this on. It is my hope he uses this as a lesson to avoid situations that can get you caught up like this, your name being tarnished.”
At the annual CARIFTA Games, held during the Easter holiday weekend at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Newbold collected two medals. He placed third in the under 20-boys 400 meters (m) in a time of 46.01 seconds. He was also a member of the 4x400m relay team that won the bronze in 3:07.44. In 2011, Newbold won gold in the 200m at the World Youth Championships. The young and upcoming track star has a personal best time of 20.76 seconds in the 200m and 45.94 seconds in the 400m. At the time of the incident, Newbold was enrolled at Florida State University (FSU).
Sands said: “Stephen is an athlete and he has great potential. He made a mistake. I do not want us as a society to condemn a young man because of a mistake he has made. It was an error in judgment. I want us to rally around persons like Stephen and continue to focus on what is positive. We need to let go and move on.
“I take this opportunity to speak to all of our young people. I want them to be mindful of the company that you keep. I can’t tell them who to pick as their friends or role models, but they have to be mindful of the company that they keep at the end of the day. You are responsible for own actions and have to take responsibility for your own actions. We all make mistakes in life. Sometimes you might not be responsible for being down, but you are responsible for getting back up.”
Sands said he is expecting to see Newbold back on the track during the 2014 season. He encouraged Newbold to continue training and working out as more opportunities and avenues are still open.