Home / Rio 2016 / Smith: Leave me out of it! Sport Minister will not intervene in gymnastics furore

Smith: Leave me out of it! Sport Minister will not intervene in gymnastics furore

Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith has refused to intervene in the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation’s (TTGF) dispute with its two star athletes, Thema Williams and Marisa Dick, on the eve of its selection for the Rio 2016 Olympic Test Event.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams.

The TTGF has until tomorrow to select which athlete will represent the country in Rio. Williams was initially named as the chosen athlete, due to her superior performance at the Glasgow 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship.

However, the local gymnastics body has since hinted strongly that it may replace Williams with Dick.

Smith, via a press release, said it is none of his business, although the TTGF is almost entirely funded by taxpayers’ money, since: “NGBs (National Governing Bodies) are independent sporting entities whose autonomy is sacrosanct under the Olympic Charter and general principles of sports law.”

Smith claimed that the decision was made “having consulted with the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee.”

The TTGF, which is headed by president and COPOS Credit Union general manager David Marquez, called a council meeting today but did not provide an agenda for members. The meeting was cancelled after lunch without explanation.

The TTGF is, arguably, free to proceed without the threat of interference or intervention from either the Ministry of Sport or the TTOC.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federations 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 Federations officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right).
(Courtesy SPORTT)

(Full press release from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, along with the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT), having consulted with the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, advises the public that as Government entities, the Ministry and SporTT may monitor, but should not intervene in disputes within National Governing Bodies (NGBs) for sport.

NGBs are independent sporting entities whose autonomy is sacrosanct under the Olympic Charter and general principles of sports law. Dispute resolution and disciplinary proceedings are the sole purview of the NGBs, who must implement and enforce their own internal administrative processes.

Intervention from Government in these processes may incur country sanctions and threats of sanctions by international sporting organisations, as demonstrated by published cases involving Sri Lanka, Mexico, Kuwait and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The end result of such sanctions would mean that athletes would be unable to participate at international games and tournaments under the flag of their country of birth but rather (in case of the Olympics) have to participate under the Olympic Flag.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) meets with TTGF president David Marquez and his executive committee. (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) meets with TTGF president David Marquez and his executive committee.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

NGBs may be held accountable to the Government should the use of public funds be in question. Further, the Ministry responsible for sport may consider withholding funds from an NGB if it cannot resolve its internal disputes professionally and maturely or if executive decisions are not in keeping with best sporting practice or the tenets of the National Sport Policy.

The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago will continue to support NGBs in the conduct of their affairs and in the best interest of the athletes and support staff who represent Trinidad and Tobago.

We hope for a fair and speedy resolution to all disputes and for good governance in sport to be normalised in the affairs of all NGBs.

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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135 comments

  1. Duck and run Minister. Steups!

  2. Lol I have to laugh this morning. What do we want? If the minister of sports had done a high hand move and say they want the two young ladies to go and they will fund it. People would of been condemning the said minister for such a high handed move. The man trying to allow for the independence of the body to work out their issue properly. Which by the way taking to damm long. An yes I am sure he can do the removal of funding from the group. What then? While I think the organization is a bureaucratic piece of rubbish. We have to allow them to make up their mind. Even though I personally think this is BS, and if ever it was the chance of a possibility of a medal is with these individuals send them. We must stop asking the Government to intervene every time against every sporting body. Remember the time when one man controlled a sporting body? He did what he wanted and while many good friend Lasana Liburd got banned due his probing and asking the right questions. Give the minister a chance since I do believe they coming to ask for money soon

  3. Lol!!! You see Lasana, there is a wider problem and that is accountability. There is an inherent problem with most of the organizations because of the fact that ppl believe they don’t have to answer to anyone or anything. This is not only a problem in gymnastics, look at the histories of swimming, boxing, football and the list is long. Until and unless there is reform and channels for greater accountability our athletes will always be victims and suffer at the hands of inept and vicious administrators

  4. Tonya, if the Sport Minister is tip toeing around gymnastics, just wait until football and cricket jam him!

  5. You see that release from the Ministry of Sport, I have a huge problem with it. This is why sport in this country will not progress as it should even with the incredible talent we have. That release was poorly worded and in my mind did not require the accountability that was necessary for the sporting federations. This is precisely why the TTGF has been behaving this way for many years. Their behavior is nothing new, it is just that their shenanigans have become more bold and more public!

  6. You see what happened here with Thema and Dick, how much you wanna bet we will be dealing with an identical situation with regards the TTGF and a pair of local gymnasts in four years?

    We doh learn lessons yuh know?
    We dodge bullets by pure vaps and then institute a policy that has as it’s basis pure vaps.
    All yuh watch and see!

    • Vernal unfortunately i tend to agree with you. There are some tendencies within sport to chance that. One is happening tomorrow, when TTOC proposes to amend its constitution to include a good governance pledge for its members. That Way it will be easier to put members under pressure. The Fact that NF’s operate very autonomous has its reasons, however in Trinidad that makes Administrators think they don’t have to account to anyone. We have to find a way how to carefully balance that autonomy with a accountability. That will be a difficult task…

    • Sport?
      These are tendencies that exist within Trinidad government, it’s never proactive.

    • Vernal I dont think i expressed that correctly, i am speaking about tendencies to bring more accountability and transparency… there are Federations that trying their best to make a difference…

  7. For the record, the examples the Ministry of Sport gave are bogus. In Sri Lanka, Kuwait and Mexico, those were situations where the Gov’t tried to forcibly change the president or the constitution.
    And even then, only one of the bodies were actually banned. There is a lengthy process before a body would be suspension.
    The Ministry of Sport seemed to suggest that if they asked the TTGF to meet, they would be suspended in the morning. That is misleading.
    The Sport Ministry could have tried to mediate or offered advice. That is a long way from twisting arms to get the TTGF to do what it wanted.
    For anyone who says that if you can’t force them to do what you want, then it is better not to do anything…
    Well, I just don’t get that and I respectfully disagree. This is 2016. All leaders are supposed to try to convince people to follow them and not insist they do with the big stick.
    If the only way you can get something done is by brute force, you are not a real leader.

  8. Darryl needs to man up and grow some balls.

  9. The Sport Ministry should not fund these bodies and then take a completely hands off approach.

  10. all we do is talk, we d ppl shud take to the street and protest.

  11. Jason Baptiste and Andreas Stueven, I checked the examples given by the Sport Ministry and there is no comparison. And two of the cases, there was no suspension anyway. Just a warning.
    Those examples were of governments trying to force the association to change the constitution or remove the president without an election.
    So I think that is hogwash. Why can the Sport Ministry call in a NGB for a photo op but not to discuss a matter?
    The Sport Minister could have given advice to the NGB and they could have taken the advice or rejected it. For him to say he couldn’t give advice, have a meeting or even give an opinion is nonsense.

  12. Sophie, the topless photo issue is so last month now. They have moved on to Plan B. The decision will have nothing to do with the photographs now.

  13. Smith is a cop out! All the stupid talk in Parliment and he can’t intervene!

  14. THEN…TO WHOM SHOULD WE LOOK FOR CLARITY ON THIS NATIONAL ISSUE! PLEASE REVIEW…