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NAAA: Sport Minister exposed T&T to international sanctions

The National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAA) has retorted to criticisms from Sport Minister Anil Roberts by accusing the minister of lacking patience and respect for World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) legal procedures.

The NAAA further claimed that Roberts’ probes and public pronouncements on the Semoy Hackett drug case exposes Trinidad and Tobago to the risk of sanctions from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The NAAA executive met Roberts on Monday September 9 to discuss the suspension of Hackett, who travelled to Moscow with the Trinidad and Tobago track and field team but left without competing after the IAAF appealed a lifted drug ban against the local sprinter.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Semoy Hackett (third from right) during the London 2012 Olympics.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Semoy Hackett (third from right) during the London 2012 Olympics.

Roberts has been very critical of the NAAA’s decision to send Hackett to Moscow. But the sporting body countered that Hackett was eligible to compete and there was no legal grounds to bar her from representing Trinidad and Tobago.

Today’s release from the NAAA secretariat claimed Roberts’ attitude on Monday implied that he had already made his mind up and was not open to rational discussion.

“From the Minister’s opening remarks at the meeting, he set the tone for what unfortunately turned out to be a cross-examination session,” stated the NAAA release. “It was evident to the members of the NAAA team that, rather than seeking to understand the circumstances surrounding the matter, the Minister appeared to be in search of information that would justify what now looks like preconceived notions that he already had.

“Despite our protestations that the matter was still being arbitrated upon and that he should temper his public comments, he held to his position.”

The NAAA further stated that, despite its warnings about the sensitivity of a matter that is before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), it had agreed to share confidential information with Roberts. But the National Sporting Organisation (NSO) was shocked to see the Sport Minister address the media, immediately after the meeting, and follow this up with a press conference two days later.

Photo: Sport Minister and MP Anil Roberts.
Photo: Sport Minister and MP Anil Roberts.

“We consider this a very unfortunate occurrence as the meeting was intended to be a private, closed door affair and not fodder to fuel a controversial public discourse,” stated the NAAA. “We also considered it wise to consult our parent body, the IAAF, not only to seek general guidance but also because we are a bit fearful of what some may perceive as a threat to our autonomy as a national governing body.

“It is no secret in the sporting world that a national federation may face sanctions, including suspension, if the international federation believes that there is political or government interference. The IAAF’s response clearly articulated their concern about the Minister’s involvement at this stage of the process.”

The NAAA insisted that it considers the Ministry of Sport to be a key stakeholder but urged Roberts to exercise patience in this case.

“Because of the current legal process, improper disclosure by the NAAA could run the risk of compromising those proceedings,” stated the release.

The NAAA told the wider public that it continues to collaborate with the IAAF on this matter, has adhered to all the rules of the IAAF and WADA and did seek out and act upon legal advice.

The athletics body also re-affirmed its commitment to a zero tolerance policy on drug use in sport and the proper maintenance of the country’s hard-earned sporting reputation. But it also urged concerned parties to respect the principles of natural justice.

“This matter is a complex one, which demands careful analysis by those directly involved and patience by those looking on,” stated the NAAA.

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