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.
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.
(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.
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.