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Thema’s attorneys appeal: TTGF decision ‘irrational, illegal and null and void’

Gymnast Thema Williams has lodged a last ditch legal appeal to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) in an effort to allow her to represent her country in Rio tomorrow at the 2016 Olympics Test event from 3.30 pm (4.30 pm Rio time) on 17 April 2016.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international gymnast Thema Williams. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international gymnast Thema Williams.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The TTGF, which is led by president David Marquez, today removed Williams as its authorised athlete and replaced her with Marisa Dick, who will fly in from Canada at 8.30 am (9.30 am Rio time) on April 17.

The decision was based on an email from Williams’ coach John Geddert, which suggested that the athlete was struggling with an injury. However, Geddert subsequently said Williams was declared fit by a Brazilian doctor and accused the TTGF of taking his words out of context.

The following is the official Grounds of Appeal and Certificate of Urgency by attorneys Keith Scotland and Emir Crowne, on behalf of Trinidad: 

Grounds of Appeal are as follows:

  1. The decision to “pull Thema from the test event” is irrational, illegal and null and void.

Particulars

  1. This decision was based on an interpretation of an incomplete report sent by John Geddert without getting his full input or the full report.
  2. The decision was precipitous and premature.
  3. The decision/finding of the federation that “Thema will not perform well at this competition due to her injury” is flawed in fact, law and procedure.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right). (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right).
(Courtesy SPORTT)

Particulars

  1. Fact – at the relevant time Ms. Williams was not carrying any injury which would affect her performance. Moreover, Ms. Williams’ physicians have advised that she (was) indeed fit for completion.
  2. Law – At no time before taking that decision to pull her out did the TTGF give Ms. Williams or her coach Mr. John Geddert an opportunity to be heard. This is a breach of natural justice and fairness.
  3. Procedure – in the circumstances, the procedure adopted by the TTGF, including its timing, is improper and unfair.
  4. The process engaged by the TTGF in coming to issue its decision ‘ex parte’ is illegal.

Particulars

  1. This procedure is in breach of the TTGF constitution and of the generally recognized right of athletes to be heard, especially in matters of team selection and de-selection.
  2. The decision taken by the TTGF to pull Ms Williams from the Test Event is arbitrary, capricious and wrong in law.
Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015. (Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)
Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)

Particulars

  1. The TTGF has breached the tenets of natural justice and this decision was taken without giving the player/coach an opportunity to be heard and explain and mitigate this nuclear sanction.
  2. The decision is in breach of the terms and spirit of the athlete’s agreement.

Particulars

  1. The Athlete’s agreement is an agreement coming from the TTGF in particular the specific clauses 2,3 and 4 dealing with suspension, sanction and dispute resolution all contemplate the following and adoption of grievance procedures including provision for the athlete of an opportunity to be heard. The actions of the TTGF is in breach thereof.
  2. Bias
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation second vice president and former president Ricardo Lue Shue (left) shakes hands with SPORTT Company official Anthony Creed. Lue Shue will act as Marisa Dick's coach in Brazil. (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation second vice president and former president Ricardo Lue Shue (left) shakes hands with SPORTT Company official Anthony Creed.
Lue Shue will act as Marisa Dick’s coach in Brazil.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

Particulars

  1. We allege apparent and/or actual bias on the part of the TTGF and we will rely on the course of dealings between the parties to support this.
  2. Timing
  3. Any other ground that may become apparent.

Other Matters:

  1. In light of the extreme urgency in this matter, Ms. Williams asks that it be heard by teleconference no later than 10 am (EST) on April 17th, 2016. With a short decision rendered by 12 noon (EST) on April 17th, 2016 with detailed reasons to follow in fourteen (14) days.
  2. Ms. Williams asks that a sole arbitrator or sole mediator/arbitrator be appointed from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, or the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic Committee.
  3. The right to seek costs, damages or any other relief as may available to her at law.

(Certificate of Urgency)

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. Williams was in line to be Trinidad and Tobago's first gymnast to perform at an Olympic Games. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Williams was in line to be Trinidad and Tobago’s first gymnast to perform at an Olympic Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

I, hereby, certify that this Appeal is of extreme urgency as it concerns the decision by the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation to ‘pull’ Thema Williams from the test event in Rio. The grounds of urgency are as follows:

  1. This decision was taken at 12:27 am on the morning of the 16th April, 2016 and arises from a failure to observe the rules of natural justice and the TTGF’s own procedures.
  2. The event is carded to go forward on the 17th April, 2016 and it is essential that this Appeal be heard to preserve the Athlete’s position at the event and also for participation at the Olympics in August 2016.
  3. The Athlete was never formally informed by the TTGF of this decision. The mother of the athlete communicated the withdrawal on or about 10:00 am this morning.
  4. The athlete’s coach was sent an email at 1:27 am Brazilian time and only read the email in the proper hours of the morning on the 16th.
  5. Based on the timing of the decision and the time difference in Rio de Janeiro it took the Athlete and her legal team a couple hours to prepare this appeal.
  6. Due to the flawed process adopted if given (for once) an opportunity to be heard we have a reasonable prospect of success.
  7. The Attorneys at Law for Thema Williams are available to hear this appeal tonight in all of the circumstances and they can be reached at *****.
  8. The athlete/appellant asks that 9ESTthis appeal be heard by teleconference or any other efficient mechanism no later than 10am (EST) on April 17th, 2016. With a short decision rendered by 12 noon (EST) on April 17th, 2016.
  9. The athlete/appellant asks that a sole arbitrator or sole mediator/arbitrator be appointed from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, or the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic Committee.

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62 comments

  1. Sounds like someone, bitter,jealous of the woman. damm haters

  2. Don’t give up Thema! TnT supports you!

  3. As far as I know Brazilian doctor confirmed Thema as being fit for the Contest.

  4. Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick will proceed to compete at this afternoon’s Aquece Final Gymnastics Qualifier in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
    http://www.looptt.com/content/ttgf-arbitration-fails-marisa-dick-compete-qualifiers

  5. very disheartening for thema !! could imagine the hurt this girl must be feeling 🙁

  6. Hahahaha… seems like a perennial problem with everything trini… traffic is always the problem!

  7. The coach’s emails are pretty clear. Thelma is carrying an injury, which is affecting her performance. We need an objective third party – a medical doctor – to rule on this. We have a situation where an athlete wants to represent the country at all cost. It’s her dream. The impact to her career is obvious. As such it’ll be tough to get an objective/honest opinion from her about how she feels. We also have a case where the TTGF cannot be trusted and has ulterior motives in terms of a preferred athlete. Thus we need an objective, independent medical doctor to rule on this, and help make a decision that is best for tnt.

  8. Will the teleconference have a live stream?

  9. The is only one contestant to represent Trinidad and Tobago, Thema Williams. Marisa was born, raised, educated and trained in Canada. The only connection to TnT she has is her mother. Where as Thema was born, raised, educated and trained in TnT and holds no other citizenships. Any patriotic Trinbaginian with a sense of justice will support Thema and so do I. She scored 59th at the World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow, whereas Marisa scored 77th. And the best athlete isn’t allowed to represent her country. This is not about gymnastics or nude photos any more. It’s about the injustice! And if as a nation will let this slide our children will pay by being taken advantage of in the future. Imagine if Thema scored 78th, her name wouldn’t be even mentioned but yet Marisa is still in the game and is flying to Rio. This is outrageous!

  10. I starting to think TTGF duped us they never wanted the better gymnast to represent TT. They are blowing up a simple practice report from her coach, leaves us to wonder about that ugly “R” word

  11. All this unnecessary distraction when the girl should be getting ready for her test event

  12. TTGF have made it clear that they deserve to be shamed publicly. Names of these fools needs to be openly stated.

  13. Lasana Liburd … my suggestion would be tonfollow the money. As we all know, government subventions go directly to respective federations … ask the TTGF to submit to a forensic audit and see what happens…

  14. The Ministry of Sport needs to cut funding to the TTGF. Men just cutting down elite athletes to suit their own agendas and flying off to Brazil to flam on our dime. Thema there whole week getting ready to compete. How is Dick supposed to compete after flying in to Brazil on the same day as the competition? But then I also have to question her integrity. Why not tell the TTGF to haul dey tail considering what they doing to Thema and to her because this is unfair to them both.

  15. A few week ago they were asking for donations for Thema, now they can fly out 2 persons immediately

  16. Been offline most of the day, Lasana, so I’m only now seeing this. Am I understanding this correctly? Did they allow her to represent T&T after the uproar over the photos only to now reverse that decision the day before she is to begin competing?

  17. Earl Best

    Well, I guess we’ll now get the answer to Thema’s father’s question about whether silence is a sound. What will be the legal position if the TTGF simply fails to respond by the deadline unilaterally set by Thema’s legal team? The plot thickens…

  18. Why can’t they give this girl a chance! Ridiculous!

  19. I wonder if she somehow doesn’t get there, what would be the response of the federation. One can hope that she stands in solidarity with Thema (but I doubt it). Thema should just go represent another country, it is obvious that the federation does not support her as our representative

  20. I have only one question …it’s actually a rhetorical one: If Ms Dick was not available as a replacement would they have pulled Ms Williams from the competition and allow the country to go unrepresented?

  21. One statement by a former mayor and everybody called for him to resign but the TTOC and TTGF blatantly disrespecting athletes and nobody calling for a resignition…Trinidad sweet yes. People know what to protest about in this country. Bullshit. As a national athlete I’m disgusted as my heart and prayers go out to Thema Williams.

  22. Buh, btw, can we do anything here without a song and dance?

  23. This was a decision based on haste and biasness. They saw an opening to bring in Ms. Dick and they milked it for all they could. Is this a board or a bunch of kids on a playground?