Eleven months after Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis announced that Marisa Dick would represent the two- island republic at the Rio Olympic Games, 21-year-old gymnast Thema Williams and her legal team have urged the body to be transparent about the process used to arrive at their decision.
Martin Daly, SC, the lead attorney for Williams’ legal team, quoted from Tuesday’s judgment by Justice Frank Seepersad, as he explained why the gymnast’s suit against the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) and four of its officials deserved to be heard in High Court rather than by a TTGF arbitration committee.
“There is, therefore, a very evident public interest concern in this matter,” stated Seepersad, “and the selection process for representation at the Olympics is an issue that extends beyond the insular concerns of the parties to this matter and is one in which every citizen has a vested interest.”
Williams became the first Trinidad and Tobago gymnast ever to earn a place at the Olympic Test Event. However, on 16 April 2016—on the eve of the competition—the local gymnastics body controversially replaced her with Canada-born gymnast, Marisa Dick.
And, just over two weeks later, the TTOC ratified the TTGF’s decision and selected Dick to compete at the Rio Olympics.
Daly, who said he was holding his first media conference on an active case in his 50 years of practice, suggested that it was time for the Olympic Committee to answer some questions on its own behaviour.
In particular, “Team Thema” wanted information on how the TTOC used the two-week period between Williams’ withdrawal and their selection of Dick.
“What investigations did they conduct into the Gymnastics Federation’s withdrawal of Thema from the Rio Test Event and from the Rio Olympics before they decided to ratify an athlete to replace Thema?” asked Daly. “On the basis of what information and (information) received from whom did they make their decision to ratify?”
A year since her life turned upside down, Williams said the TTOC never called to hear her account of what occurred in Rio before the Test Event.
“Never. Not once,” said Williams.
However, Daly revealed that documents shared by the gymnastics body during their ongoing court tussle showed that officials from the TTOC and TTGF met regularly before the former party opted to choose Dick.
At the time, Lewis told the media that the TTOC’s decision to send Dick was “significantly influenced” by correspondence from the FIG, which said that the TTGF’s change of athletes did not violate the rules of the international gymnastics body.
Lewis, who was not a member of the TTOC’s games management committee which chose Dick, described the FIG’s intervention as “curious” at the time. But the TTOC went along with it anyway.
“The process by the games management committee in selecting athletes for the Olympic Games was respectfully followed,” said Lewis. “This process entails: confirmation of the eligibility of the athlete, confirmation of the qualification process by the FIG. The TTOC games management committee has therefore ruled that the TTOC has no choice but to include Marisa Dick in the Team TTO Rio 2016 declaration.
“I repeat, the decision was significantly influenced by the FIG letter of 29 April 2016, which speaks to the legality of the process of the selection of the named athlete…”
However, Daly suggested Team Thema was dissatisfied with Lewis’ explanation since it appeared to abdicate his organisation’s own responsibility. He noted that the TTOC had “exclusive jurisdiction over entry into the Olympic Games of an athlete proposed by a recognised sporting federation.”
And he further pointed out that the TTOC’s charter said: “Any form of discrimination with regard to country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.”
Daly said he intentionally avoided mentioning any names in the media conference, so as to avoid personalising the issue. However, he appeared to reference Lewis on several occasions, including a column by the sport administrator—published two days ago in a daily newspaper—which opened with, “How do we start living an awesome life?”
“We feel we need to hear from our Olympic Committee apart from telling us in the newspaper how to have an awesome day,” said Daly. “That is a little troubling for us, of course, because during the course of Thema’s withdrawal, she had some un-awesome days—I can tell you that—as did her parents and all her support people.”
Williams, a former St Joseph’s Convent student, said she has not decided whether she would ever compete in gymnastics again. At present, she is working as a coach at her old club, Tots and Tumblers, as well as at another gym.
Otherwise, she said she is exploring other talents.
“In terms of my athletic career, I have not yet made a decision,” said Williams. “It’s been a lot so I am still undecided. I’m exploring the fashion world [and] my artistic side.
“That has been one of the ways I have been able to cope with the entire situation.”
Daly and Keith Scotland, who is also representing Williams along with Dr Emir Crowne, stressed that they currently have no legal action against the TTOC and did not plan to initiate any. As such, they felt it would be inappropriate to approach the sporting body for answers.
All the same, they hoped the media would get answers for questions that continue to trouble Team Thema.
Nine questions for the TTOC:
What investigations did they conduct into the Gymnastics Federation’s withdrawal of Thema from the Rio Test Event and from the Rio Olympics before they decided to ratify an athlete to replace Thema?
On the basis of what information and (information) received from whom did they make their decision to ratify?
We know they intended to meet with the Federation and were in frequent touch with the Federation’s attorneys. Did they make the decision to ratify the replacement athlete on a one-sided basis?
When it met on 30 May 2016 to “consider all the issues”—their words—what issues did they consider?
Before ratifying another athlete to take Thema’s place, did they consider and apply their stated principles to “preserve human dignity” and their own recognition that “any form of discrimination with regard to country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement”?
Why did they hustle to ratify the replacement athlete on 2 May 2016—a whole week before 9 May 2016 which was the deadline for doing so?
Why (did they) not use that extra week to pursue investigations into Thema’s withdrawal?
Did they yield voluntarily to the threat of a lawsuit from the Federation despite the strong hand of powers that they held in respect of their exclusive jurisdiction to decide upon the entry of athletes proposed by a recognised sporting federation and to ratify an athlete to compete in the Olympic Games?
Can recognised sporting federations do whatsoever they please without intervention from the TTOC?
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The TTOC Constitution Article 17 (Selection of Teams): a) The executive shall decide on the numerical strength and composition of the representative teams. The composition of the teams shall be determined from the nominations made by affiliated members of the Committee, the Executive reserving to itself the right to veto any nomination. Nominations shall comprise the names of competitors in order of merit and the names of officials and their particular functions.
b) Competitors must comply with the standards laid down by the Olympic Committee or the International Governing Body of the particular sport.
Ttoc in trouble here
Daly has them on the ropes
In Trouble how? They are not before the Court…and to me they have a very easy escape clause.
When he’s done with with TTGF where you think he going lol
so allyuh going to prolong this as much as possible to eat eh food? is tax payers money going an shell out either way
Taxpayers money how?
When a verdict is reached Nigel Tyrell P. Reid it will obviously if monetary compensation ….not so? Where you think the millions in payouts coming from ? The lawyers? The gymnastic boards ? Etc? No brother it’s the government have to foot that bill for individuals poor choices an judgement. …..both sides going to ride this gravy train as long as it takes (already knowing the outcome ) an the ppl will say she won day shoulda never do she dat! !!! But never to realise they were played for fools !!!!!!!
This foole up with the most unlikely decision at the most cducial juncture…..the evidence clearly indicated malfisance on the part of the Gymnastics Association but yet he found it opportune to come down on its side…..!!!!!
Well they achieved their objective
To get the white girl to go
Thy dont care caus the lawsuit wont come out of their pockets
They knew this would happen but they went ahead anyway
Whose pocket it cominf out of?
Isn’t this matter now before the courts? if so, it would be unwise for Brian or any other organization that might be involved in this fiasco, to answer any damn questions from Daly and Co. The man farse and out of place.
Brian Lewis and the TTOC are not before the courts. And I think Martin Daly SC has a fair idea of the law already. Don’t you?
Lasana Liburd No
So there can be no comments on an ingoing case?
Give we a blasted chance! We want all the press conferences!
The case is about whether the TTGF conspired and cheated Thema Williams out of her Olympic place.
What they are asking the TTOC is why did it decide to send Marisa Dick and what process was used to arrive at that decision. Did I lose you there David? Too technical?
If I am the TTOC i am answering very little except compelled by a court and only then from lawyers…
QUESTION?,COULD THOSE NINE QUESTIONS BE DANGEROUS OR DAMAGING TO THE CASE,THIS GOLF BALL MIGHT MUTATE TO A CANNON BALL ,BLOWS UP BIG FLASH, SETTLE OUT OF COURT FOR SMALL MONEY, (I DON’T THINK SO)
The TTOC and the TTGF must explain their criteria for choosing Dick . The people is curious about their choice of Dick.
Wen thema done by the next rounds she be looking like ah dick
This whole tragedy was racially motivated. Even commentators threw in their two cents worth….. Tony Lee, Andre Baptiste made me sick to hear them justify Lewis’ decision.
I really want to hear this explanation .
My question for Team Thema is this: Have these nine questions been addressed in writing to the TTGF or are they relying on the media to pass the questions on to that organisation?
And my second question is this: Say TTOC and everybody hears Brian Lewis. So what really is to be gained by “not personalising”?
The various Ministries have allowed this practice to fester and become the norm. They have not insisted that annual audited accounts be done , but continue to pay out monies to them. There must be changes now. We cannot continue to go on this way and this starts form the top. Citizens job is to put pressure on the organizations as well as Ministries to ensure transparency and accountability to end this high-handedness and autocratic behaviour
I wonder if someone will disagree with the questions…
Don’t tempt fate! Lol
Maybe they will pull a Kelly Ann Conway and tell you the questions you SHOULD be asking and answer those instead ?. My only issue is that there is nothing to compel the TTOC to answer anything. And with them being freshly re-elected there is nothing in it for them. I would be very surprised if any one of those questions were answered at all. I’ve read the interview with the president. He’s adept at responding to questions without ACTUALLY answering them
The ministries that are directly associated must take a stance because it’s our money that is poured into these organizations
Since the incident occurred TTOC (Brian) has not responded. That’s where Trinis problem lie. Months have passed , no one put pressure on TTOC to respond. We are a (2-3) days wonder and then we quiet. that’s way so may issues including court cases alleged stolen money are still pending, Trinis took Kamla advice and move on. We doing the same things over and over and getting the same results for 50 years and what?
To be fair, the conversations surrounding this particular issue did generate national interest and went far, far beyond the regular 10-day media cycle. People began to ask questions, and displayed much more intensity than what I have seen in recent memory, on the local sporting front at least.
You’re definitely right though – our countrymen and women do have an issue with accountability, and the list of examples is incredibly long.
I understand Brian Lewis is out of the country at present. Hopefully he will respond as soon as he is able to though.
I’m sure he’ll respond eventually too. Now he might not answer a single question but he’ll respond nonetheless ?
its time sports administrators/bodies etc be accountable to the country
I’m sure the TTOC, fresh off recent elections, is eager to clear the air on this matter.
I thought all of this was explained already
Explained by whom?
Was in the press, radio
This is dishonest. Wired isn’t this your article: http://wired868.com/2016/05/02/we-had-no-choice-ttocs-full-statement-on-selection-of-tt-gymnast-marisa-dick/
So? The medium is merely the messenger; the message is not necessarily ours, as media disclaimers tend to stress.
I’m glad you read that old article Nicha. But I’m not sure what is causing you such confusion about the questions to the TTOC.
The TTOC said it felt compelled to send Marisa Dick because of a letter from the FIG. Now read over the questions again and see if that fills in all the gaps.
Yes alyuh come cleannn
How i see it is that as the head of the ttoc at the time mr lewis has serious questions too answer.This is good for transparency on a a whole for sports in t&t.We meaning t&t like to do as we like when we in position we feel we di nit have to answer too nobody look at what is taking place with our President???
The President doesnt have to answer to anybody
Why??Mr we are in d 21st century, u must hold people in positions accountable colonialism days done!!At the end of d day my tax dollars $ paying u know!!