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.
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:
- The decision to “pull Thema from the test event” is irrational, illegal and null and void.
- This decision was based on an interpretation of an incomplete report sent by John Geddert without getting his full input or the full report.
- The decision was precipitous and premature.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Procedure – in the circumstances, the procedure adopted by the TTGF, including its timing, is improper and unfair.
- The process engaged by the TTGF in coming to issue its decision ‘ex parte’ is illegal.
- 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.
- The decision taken by the TTGF to pull Ms Williams from the Test Event is arbitrary, capricious and wrong in law.
- 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.
- The decision is in breach of the terms and spirit of the athlete’s agreement.
- 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.
- 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.
- Any other ground that may become apparent.
- 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.
- 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.
- The right to seek costs, damages or any other relief as may available to her at law.
(Certificate of Urgency)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Due to the flawed process adopted if given (for once) an opportunity to be heard we have a reasonable prospect of success.
- 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 *****.
- 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.
- 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.